Monday, September 11, 2023

House Party starts Tomorrow


Do Good Work, an Ann Arbor-based 501(c)3, is hosting House Party this week. House Party is a series of events focused around the state of housing in our community. Last week, I reached out to Lisa Sauvé, the founder of Do Good Work, who graciously answered some of my questions about House Party:

Damn Arbor: What inspired you to put on House Party?

Lisa Sauvé: I kept having conversations around housing and different perspectives and opinions on solutions and thought we should open it up to a broader audience. Sometimes the policy wonks and design nerds get too wrapped up without taking a step back to invite others into the conversation and spend some time listening. Last September I was at the Avalon Housing Fundraiser and was inspired by all the stories being shared and thought "we need more of this". Immediately texted a friend and the ideas started being put together. Below is a snap of that text exchange. 

DA:  What outcome are you hoping for?

LS: I hope the information sharing can help dispell some myths around housing and development like how and why we only see market-rate "luxury" apartments from the private development industry (hint: the opportunity cost, risk, financing, and requirements all layer into the final cost). Online doesn't allow for long-form discourse and I know I'm part of that vocal group. When we meet face-to-face there is more humanity and understanding of the tradeoffs we're all trying to balance to meet our community goals. 

This is also a great time at the beginning of the city's comprehensive planning process to start to engage from a grassroots of community events without the consultants and municipal leaders leading the agenda. For several of the event,s we have talked directly to the city and Interface (the comprehensive planning consultant) about what outcomes and information would be useful for them to recieve if we were able to collect it. It will be great to share these experiences as part of the longer planned collective conversation. So while we have the support, these events do have some autonomy. 

DA: What are you most excited about with House Party?

LS: I'm actually an introvert, so organizing a whole lot of public events feels kinda out of character. The one that resonates with me personally is House Stories. It allows anyone to schedule an individual time to record their housing story in a phone booth at the AADL downtown branch. The AADL is also going to archive these recordings in their collection as a recorded history and snapshot in time of our lived experiences locally which is exciting to know they'll be able to be a shared resource into the future. A couple of the most powerful experiences I've had around housing this past year have been at that Avalon fundraiser, and a city council meeting (8/7/23) where several renters organized and shared their stories and struggles with landlords, cost, and quality housing.

There's also a few student run events including an engagement session on Wednesday evening, with a second opportunity Saturday afternoon to participate at the Liberty Annex as well as some spaces for Park(ing) Day. Student housing is a major discussion point, partially for the new construction downtown but also our ability (or lack-thereof) to retain talent and grow a multi-generational community. It's great to see how involved they have become to join the issue and break down that barrier between town and gown. 

DA: One last question: What would you recommend for someone who is curious about House Party, but maybe feeling a little shy?

LS: Like I said, I'm an introvert, so I get it. At almost every event there is food and stickers which usually gives something to focus on if being social or engaging isn't something you can jump right into. A great friend, advocate, and expert in community engagement - Jess Letaw - shared a working agreement to help situate the room into a respectful and open one. I hope that this will create spaces for the shy and opinionated to come together and find mutual respect and understanding to allow everyone to grow and take something away from joining. The agreement is below if you'd like to share;

  • As a group, we are committed to practicing the following:
  • We expect and give respect, always assuming good intentions.
  • We allow our opinions and beliefs to be challenged.
  • We recognize learning can be uncomfortable but should not be unsafe.
  • We are mindful of our own experiences and feelings.
  • We take the time and space we need, both inside and outside the shared spaces.
  • We process harms as they arise, when and how we are able, with care and without tone policing. 

Sounds like it'll be a series of incredible events.  House Party kicks off tomorrow morning with Coffee + Conversations with City Staff from 8:30 am - 10:00 am at Cahoots. Events run through Sunday the 17th and are all accessible by public transit. Don't forget to pick up the daily issue of Housezene from Vault of Midnight. 

1 comment:

  1. The problem is that we all know what the problems are and they almost always need a political answer. New leaders who don't want to turn Ann Arbor into a land-locked, luxury ghetto that invites social problems, extreme crime, and drives good people from their homes. Let's put some grass roots energy into recruiting people who have/had an Ann Arbor connection to run for office who can support ALL of the residents who live here now. If the local group is controlled by moderates, etc., than we need a more progressive, rational political recruitment. This type of grass roots movement is screaming for justice and sometimes it breaks through, a la Rashida Tlaib, progressive from Michigan, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, progressive from NY. We can win the outsiders to our side when they realize their mecca is going to crumble with them in it.