Ypsilanti Township official calls the proposed Water Street Flats low-income housing development a “terrible waste of taxpayer dollars” that will be disastrous for Ypsi… Does she have a point?

Yesterday, Ypsilanti Township Clerk Karen Lovejoy Roe took it upon herself to send her thoughts on our proposed downtown low-income housing development, Water Street Flats, to members of both the Township Board of Trustees and our City Council. You can find her entire letter on Councilman Brian Robb’s website. For those of you who don’t want to invest the time to read it, though, here’s the gist of it… Roe is of the opinion that the project is a “terrible waste of taxpayer dollars,” which will ultimately just serve to further enrich an out-of-state millionaire who cares little for our community or the people who will be living in the 90-unit development. According to Roe, MSHDA-funded projects, such as this one, “provide great tax credits to investors (and) make a lot of money for a few people at the expense of the communities where they are located and the future residents of the projects that eventually are not maintained and must be demolished due to neglect and lack of maintenance.” And, with that, the floodgates opened, and it was open season for everyone within a 100 mile radius to drop their pants and begin shitting on the City.


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It likely would have happened anyway, as the conditions were ripe for an onslaught of negativity, but it certainly didn’t help that Ann Arbor News, in addition to talking with Roe, also chose to interview Nicole Markovits, the Ypsilanti Township resident who just recently launched the Save Ypsilanti’s Water Street Facebook group. “I want our community to stand up and speak for ourselves and organize and be a community,” she said. “I’ve lived here my whole life and it’s gotten to the point where I’m not going to go to the store at the corner because I’m afraid. I have for years said Ypsi is going to crap and now I’m going to stop talking about it and start doing something about it.” And things just got worse from there, as the comments got increasingly nasty. Not only would this development spell the end of civilization as we know it, but, apparently, Ypsilanti was already descending into the abyss. More than one person commenting on the Ann Arbor News site actually suggested that we empower our police to begin conducting random pat downs on our citizens. And these, of course, were just the comments that weren’t censored by the Ann Arbor News. One can only imagine what was being redacted.

There were, however, a few thoughtful comments, one of which was left by Scott Straley, who, as you may recall, I interviewed last summer, shortly after he and his husband moved to Ypsi from New Jersey. Here’s what he had to say.

My husband and I purchased a home in Ypsilanti last year and we’re cautiously optimistic about the future of the community. We sincerely hope that this can be a place where we can grow our family. And, part of that is having a viable and vibrant downtown.

We do love the fact that Ypsilanti offers a wide variety of voices from many socio-economic backgrounds. That was one of the things that attracted us to the city over some of the other more monolithic options nearby. But, I hope our elected and appointed officials make decisions that are good for the whole of the community for the long-term.

HKP is clearly a company that is exploiting federal grants to provide fifty years of guaranteed income building substandard properties on the backs of naive or desperate communities.

If this was in another form with a more significant contribution to Ypsilanti that provided not only affordable housing but jobs and opportunity for its tenants, it would have my full support. In its current form, its toxic to our efforts to redevelop our downtown. And any politician that votes for it or supports it will be digging their own political grave….

As I’ve said before, I don’t envy our City leaders. Having failed to pass a city income tax, they desperately need to find a new source of revenue before the bills start coming due for the 38-acre parcel we assembled on Water Street. Failure to do so would most assuredly mean the assignment of an emergency financial manager who would, as we’ve seen elsewhere around the state, sell all of our assets, including property, without the slightest consideration as to what might be best for our community. As that’s the case, I can see why this development is appealing to members of City Council. It would bring in tax revenue, and, more importantly, it would start to bring infrastructure to Water Street, in the form of roads, water and sewer, making it easier to sell the remaining parcels. And, after 14 years of waiting to get development underway, I’m sure they’re concerned that, if they turn HKP away, it may be years before another suitor shows interest. Personally, I think the Water Street Flats project is uninspiring at best. And I don’t say that because I’m fearful of the poor. I just wanted something different for Water Street. I wanted good jobs. I wanted something inspiring. Instead, it looks as though we’re going to have a dollar store and a grim Section 8 housing development, both of which will make people in other states wealthy, while doing little to raise the economic tide here in Ypsilanti. As for low-income housing, I’m all for it. I just don’t like the idea of it being concentrated and segregated. Surely there are small, non-profit developers in the world who are creating communities where people of different income levels live side by side, right?

I’m exhausted. I need to sleep. Here, before I go, though, is one more thing. It’s a excerpt from Karen Lovejoy Roe’s letter, in which she suggests that we could do a lot more good in our community by spending our tax dollars to build Habitat for Humanity homes, and rehabilitating existing ones, than giving the money to a developer like HKP. Granted, it might not help us with Water Street, but I think it’s certainly and idea worth considering… not that we’d have it in our power to control how MSHDA allocates funds, even if we agreed.


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  1. Posted February 27, 2014 at 12:41 am | Permalink

    From the last time I wrote about this:

    A few years ago, I think I would have had quite a bit to say about this. Now, though, in the wake of the Family Dollar announcement, I think I’ve come to accept the fact that Water Street isn’t going to become what I’d wanted it to be. For a while – and I think this was true for a lot of us – Water Street was a beautiful blank canvass that we could project our dreams for the future of our community on. We all, of course, had different visions for what should ultimately be there. We all had our own ideas as to what would right the ship and get Ypsilanti heading in a more sustainable direction. And we were all passionate on the subject. Personally, I’d envisioned a co-housing development, a year-round farmers’ market, an expanded food co-op, a thriving public arts park, and space along Michigan Avenue for locally-owned businesses. There were a million ideas, and they all shared a common attribute… They were hopeful… The unpleasant truth, however, is that those with money aren’t from our community, and the way they see Ypsilanti isn’t the way that we see it. And, as a result, we’re not talking about indoor farmers’ markets, but dollar stores, fast food franchises and more Peninsular Place-like apartment complexes. To those outside our community, we just represent money that can be siphoned off. They don’t, in short, see our potential. They don’t care about our long term viability as a community, only what they can get from us today. And that’s sad. Sadder still, though, is the fact that I’ve come to accept it.

    Here’s the thing, though… Regardless of what happens on Water Street, life will continue and people will still keep fighting to make Ypsi great. It just won’t all happen on that 38 acres of downtown real estate. And maybe that’s OK.

  2. Posted February 27, 2014 at 12:48 am | Permalink

    Part of me now wants to turn the whole thing into a massive, 38-acre mega dwelling for the poor, just to fuck with the assholes in the Township who were spewing all the venom on the Ann Arbor News site.

  3. anonymous
    Posted February 27, 2014 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    It pains me to be on the same side of this debate with the a2.com racists.

  4. Scared for Ypsi
    Posted February 27, 2014 at 8:07 am | Permalink

    This project will forever define Ypsi. I have talked with business owners and residents (who do not comment in the papers or the blogs) who feel this will be our tipping point. I actually talked with a couple who were going to buy in Ypsi but changed their mind because of the direction the city council and mayor is taking the city. I actually agree with them.
    Why would our council let an out of town millionaire define our destination for us. This project will not keep us out of bankruptcy but a good project might as it would attract other good projects. This is just not good business sense.
    Please Council and mayor, don’t do this. We are going to have one chance to get this right. You would not marry the first guy who asked you if he was a loser, would you? Wait a bit, see what comes up now that the housing market is turning around.

  5. Elf
    Posted February 27, 2014 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    The Ann Arbor News notes how many members Nicole Markovits’ Facebook group has, as though that gives her credibility. When I checked, though, it looked as though she was putting people in the group herself. For instance, it says that Paul Schreiber is a member, and, beneath his name, it says “added by Nicole Markovits.”

  6. josh
    Posted February 27, 2014 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    It is definitely a huge state/federal tax give away to the developer and generally a dumb idea. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad deal for ypsi, so long as we are getting a cut. It’s hard to ignore the infrastructure build out and tax revenue from the project. I don’t know that we can really say no at this point. There are rumors of two other market rate projects in the works. If those come to fruition, we can turn this one down.

    I get annoyed with people that call our city council members idiots for going along with this. None of them like this project, but they have to figure out how to make the budget work and their options suck. I don’t envy them.

    The comments disparaging renting and multifamily housing are a mix of classism, racism, and provincial ignorance. According to the city planner, a strong majority of Ypsi residents would qualify to live in this building based on income. “But that’s because they’re students!” Yes, and this is a college town. A third of all Americans are renters and a majority live in multifamily housing. I have a hard time taking advice from people that are too scared to leave their house because economic reality doesn’t match the whitebread bougeois fantasy of their soaps.

    Complaining about the investments other people are making in Ypsi is pretty easy. If these apparently well-off homeowners want to do something productive, there are no shortage of investment opportunities in Ypsi. Everything from six figure clubs/bars to low rent store fronts in dire need of a puppet theater. I wouldn’t recommend it, but Beal is only asking $10k for a share of the Thompson Block. In short, put your money where your mouth is and if you don’t have any money then maybe you shouldn’t talk shit about low-income housing and the people that live there.

  7. Hop on Pop
    Posted February 27, 2014 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    I thought that Amanda Edmonds had everything under control.


  8. Posted February 27, 2014 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    Unfortunately, Ypsi has to deal with the realities of the real estate market and financing systems that exist in the world.

    From what the A2News has published, it looks like most of the financing would NOT be available for Habitat or any other single-family / owner-occupied development project — a big chunk of it is specifically funding available for multi-family rental affordable housing, and another chunk is for rental affordable, not necessarily multi-family.

    So the choice for these funds is not “this project, or some magical dream project that will provide wealth-building homeownership opportunities and a pony to every poor resident of Ypsilanti”. The choice is “The City gets $12m of investment in a tax-paying project, or the city gets nothing — and somebody else gets it.”

    Surely there are small, non-profit developers in the world who are creating communities where people of different income levels live side by side, right?

    There are developers who do such projects — but they tend to need even more subsidy to make it work, or else much much hotter real estate markets. Usually mixed-income projects happen when a (large, for-profit) developer wants to build in a hot market, and the city forces them to include affordable units.

    enrich an out-of-state millionaire who cares little for our community or the people who will be living in the 90-unit development

    Does anybody have any evidence that HKP is a bad landlord or property manager? Or are we just looking for reasons to attack affordable housing here?

    a grim Section 8 housing development … I just don’t like the idea of it being concentrated and segregated.

    We used to have an alternative in the community that allowed low-income residents to live in de-concentrated, un-segregated houses. But then Mr. Kircher went bankrupt and lost all his properties. Let’s not be romantic here — there’s not some magically splendid solution to affordable housing in the world; it’s mostly a choice between affordable housing developers like this one whose properties meet modern building codes, comply with rental inspectors , and aesthetically seem a darn sight nicer than most of the “non-affordable housing” rentals in town, vs. predatory landlords like Kircher.

  9. Posted February 27, 2014 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    josh: “According to the city planner, a strong majority of Ypsi residents would qualify to live in this building based on income. “But that’s because they’re students!” Yes, and this is a college town. “

    Are you suggesting that students are humans too, and also need housing? That’s shocking.

    For those who don’t agree, though, we can look just at “family” households, which have at least 2 members related by blood, marriage, or adoption. Within Ypsi, the Census reports something like 40% of family households would qualify for this property by income. (Hard to be precise, b/c the income brackets Census uses don’t line up well with the cutoff here — it’s somewhere between 38% and 45%.)

  10. josh
    Posted February 27, 2014 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    A few additional points, because I haven’t written enough.

    The threats of throwing council members out at the next election are pretty funny. Does anyone actually believe council members are interested in anything besides making the best decision for their community? The pay is something like $5k/year. I think some of them would be relieved to lose an election so they can be done with the headaches.

    I acknowledge that reasonable can disagree about this project. It’s unfortunate that well meaning people who have made personal investments in our community find themselves arguing on the same side as the bigots and morons.

    I wasn’t convinced the income tax or water street assessment were good ideas, but if you voted “no” you should probably sit down and shut the fuck up when city council makes decisions out of desperation.

    @elf, I suspect Schreiber asked to be added to the group. Because, he’s not an asshole and actually wants to listen to constituents to make informed decisions. The fact that Nicole Markovits isn’t even a city resident, is… humorous, but par for the course amongst township know-it-alls. During the YCS debacle there was no end to the shit-talking from Lincoln residents. And now they’re fucked too.


  11. Anonymous
    Posted February 27, 2014 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    I don’t think that Mark was saying that the money being given to Kittle through MSHDA could magically be given to Habitat for Humanity. I believe he was asking, at a high level, if it might make sense to revisit how we fund these kinds of housing projects. Have there been side by side comparisons between Habitat and large scale housing projects like this one being proposed by Kittle, and what similar dollars yield in terms of long term stability? Do Habitat homes last longer? Do people in Habitat homes have a greater likelihood of climbing out of poverty? I understand that Habitat homes aren’t a solution for all people, but my gut tells me that dollar for dollar, it might be a better approach. Again, though, it doesn’t really help us with Water Street.

  12. Eel
    Posted February 27, 2014 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    Talk about false dichotomies. Murph, did you just say that we should accept Water Street Flats because Kirtcher proved that landlords can’t rent to the poor without being criminal scumbags? Are those really the only two options we’ve got?

  13. Posted February 27, 2014 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    anonymous: I don’t think that Mark was saying that the money being given to Kittle through MSHDA could magically be given to Habitat for Humanity.

    Mark was not, but Ms. Roe was literally saying exactly that: that we should lobby MSHDA to move around funds that are legislatively allocated for certain purposes to other purposes.

    if it might make sense to revisit how we fund these kinds of housing projects.

    Oh, absolutely! This is a national discussion that’s been underway for decades now, and it’s unfortunate that we haven’t cracked this nut yet. I’d love to have that discussion, but I think the scope of it is so huge that we would have to set aside any specific project — and the emotional heat brought to it — in order to have that discussion.

  14. Posted February 27, 2014 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    Eel, my point was that discussion of this proposal seems to be revolving around it being the worst possible thing imaginable for Ypsilanti or the residents of the property, that it would somehow be worse housing than the status quo. I was noting that the bar for the status quo has traditionally been…awfully low.

    While invoking Mr. Kircher may be a small bit hyperbolic, the more general point would be that low-income residents exist in our community and need decent housing — the proposed project here might not be something you personally would elect to live in, but HKP’s portfolio looks to me to be head and shoulders above a lot of the housing stock currently available to those residents.

  15. Kim
    Posted February 27, 2014 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    Are there any developers currently building mixed income residential in the Midwest? If so can someone provide links? I’d like to see how they compare.

  16. Scott Straley
    Posted February 27, 2014 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

    (I feel so meta commenting on an article that contains a quote of one of my comments in another article.)

    Despite my disappointment with the HKP plan, I don’t think that some workable plan can come out of this. For instance, if this was an affordable 55+ complex, it might make more sense to me. That would encourage retail and other support services to develop in the area (retail, medical, restaurants). It would significantly reduce the perception of crime (since the vast majority of violent offenders are under 55 regardless of economic demographics). And, it would serve a relatively underserved segment of the low income population. And, HKP does manage several 55+ properties.

    If the city still insists on proceeding with this plan, at least elevate it further. Encourage retail. Perhaps allowing the first floor of the complex to be retail. Provide mixed market-rate and subsidized housing. Or, reduce its footprint, perhaps by splitting it among multiple sites to prevent this concentration.

    We moved into Ypsi about two blocks away from Parkridge. And, we’re happy to see that property being scheduled to be upgraded. But, looking at what 50+ years has done to it and the surrounding neighborhood is very, very telling of what the future has in store for the downtown area if this is not planned comprehensively.

  17. anonymous
    Posted February 27, 2014 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

    Susan Moeller will be at the March 4 meeting and will be voting No – she just put something up on FB. Same reasons as her No vote on the dollar store.

  18. Mark Lee
    Posted February 27, 2014 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

    Spike Lee

  19. Andy Cameron
    Posted February 27, 2014 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

    I’m not a fan of this project for a couple reasons, and I think much of its support comes due to water street fatigue and fear of perceived and real budget problems; people just want something to happen.

    One thing that I’ve heard in the past, but haven’t heard discussed here or more widely, is the possibility of a court ordered millage, rather than an EFM, given that no new revenue stream is likely to appear in the interim. This will, of course, be very unpopular with the anti-tax crowd, but the possibility involves the city refusing to pay the water street bond holders, with the likelihood that a court would then impose a millage to pay the bonds.

    I don’t know enough to know if this is wise, legal, or what effect that would have on our credit rating, but it’s something I’ve heard. Does anyone know?

    And my opposition is largely because this project would almost certainly in the long term devalue the remaining property, likely leading to other lower value development, which would in the long term limit the total economic potential of the property. There are certainly other issues in play, that might make one more or less likely to be sympathetic.

    For most of the history of this property the development market was basically flat lining in communities like ours across the country. Most of the time we’ve spent being impatient was time nothing was going to happen anyway, that’s just reality. That’s beginning to change, and the models that national developers use are making the property look more attractive, just not attractive enough, yet. We feel like we’ve been waiting a long time, and yes, the bill is about to come due, but we’re only just in the beginning of having a reasonable chance to develop the property the way most of us would prefer.

    I’m not certain which way I fall, but the Flats project locks in an identity and model for developing the space, one that hasn’t seemed to demonstrate success elsewhere. Citizens of Ypsilanti, and community leaders, need to make very difficult decisions, need to weigh long term vs shorter term priorities, and that can be done without any of the trash in those comments, or the emotional reactions to them.

  20. Dan
    Posted February 27, 2014 at 9:55 pm | Permalink

    “Failure to do so would most assuredly mean the assignment of an emergency financial manager who would, as we’ve seen elsewhere around the state, sell all of our assets, including property, without the slightest consideration as to what might be best for our community.

    Actually, the city’s elected leaders don’t have any consideration as to whats best for the community, if they let this dump get built. You’d be a lot better off with an EFM. balance the books, stop with the ridiculous constant begging for tax increases, and maybe get on a level playing field, tax-wise, with the rest of the area

  21. Andy Cameron
    Posted February 27, 2014 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

    Totally, Dan, cities and counties that have traditionally relied on property tax revenue should just roll over and die when national and global economic conditions degrade the revenue base. No other revenue streams should be sought, and we can just get on an even playing field by hiding in a closet and praying to Americans for Prostration, I mean Prosperity…

  22. Dan
    Posted February 27, 2014 at 10:20 pm | Permalink

    Andy, why isnt the township, or pittsfield facing the same dire situation that Mark described? Why is there no threat of an EFM in those communities?

  23. Andy Cameron
    Posted February 27, 2014 at 10:27 pm | Permalink

    bc no water street debt, and fewer services? We didn’t actually pass any of the tax increases you seem to warn against, so that can’t be our problem. Anti tax fundamentalists don’t provide much value to the conversation, bc they never actually have any viable solutions.

  24. Dan
    Posted February 27, 2014 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

    you didnt pass any RECENT tax increases, but the tax rate in the city is far far higher than the surrounding communities. Even with a much higher tax rate, somehow you are blaming the drop in property values for the problem.

    and yeah, “no water street debt” is one big reason. And it’s another example of the city’s elected leaders not considering what is best for the community.

  25. Tango Uniform
    Posted February 27, 2014 at 10:36 pm | Permalink

    Just the name reminded me of the Steinbeck novel, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tortilla_Flat

    I think this is a bad choice for a name or a cynical choice by a dubious developer.

  26. Andy Cameron
    Posted February 27, 2014 at 10:41 pm | Permalink

    I can’t speak for all the reasons we have all our mils, but we certainly don’t have any fat to cut at this point. Would you agree?

    And yup, re water street, that’s called democracy. You can always run and serve and try to do something about it. Or your counterparts could have back then. I’m fairly certain the group in charge at the time didn’t say, Hey, know what would fuck up the city for 20 years?…

    I didn’t live here then, and I don’t live in the past, so I don’t bemoan and blame on others things I can’t change.

  27. Dan
    Posted February 27, 2014 at 10:56 pm | Permalink

    there probably is no fat to cut. just like Detroit, most of the problems are built on legacy costs. You might not have been there to see the past decisions made, but you are here today, watching them make the same decisions. Maybe one day municipalities will learn that guaranteed pensions are a recipe for disaster.

    Personally, I think an EFM is inevitable. this section 8 project could very well cost more in taxes than it generates in property tax revenue. And the $60k/yr in prop tax is certainly not bailing anyone out.

    It seems to me that the elected officials are “allowing” this just to get the two streets and sewers put in (which I think was estimated at $750k). But this is a low income building that is guaranteed for 40 years, i believe. 40 years, you’re signing up for, of another segregating section 8 renter complex. and a large one at that.

    Isnt there a better way to come up with $750k for the streets and sewers?

  28. Dan
    Posted February 27, 2014 at 11:26 pm | Permalink

    lol. save $200k by building shit. We dont care what shit, just build some shit

    “The City acquired a grant/loan from the state in 2004. The amount of the loan, due to be repaid in 2017 is $2,750,350.

    One element of the loan is that a portion of the principal can be forgiven at this rate:
    $100,000 for every $5,000,000 of private investment, including soft and hard costs paid by the developer.

    Family Dollar and Water Street Flats will represent approx. $13,5 million in development, and will reduce the principal debt to $2,550,350 providing long term savings on the debt repayment.”

  29. Andy Cameron
    Posted February 27, 2014 at 11:36 pm | Permalink

    they aren’t making the same decisions, they’re managing what they can, and they’re facing difficult short term and long term issues.

    Seems to me that we’re actually on the same page re this project, although I may have more skin in the game (no idea, maybe you live outside ypsi but own rental property, a job creator or something ;)

  30. Posted February 28, 2014 at 4:08 am | Permalink

    An interesting post.

  31. Paul Schreiber
    Posted February 28, 2014 at 5:31 am | Permalink

    ” but the (property) tax rate in the city is far far higher than the surrounding communities”

    Assuming that the property values in Ypsilanti are half of Ann Arbor (as an example surrounding community) the revenue from a mill is one half.

    The percentage of Section 8 in the eight other properties cited in the Water Street Flats presentation (http://cityofypsilanti.com/Portals/0/docs/Mayor%20and%20City%20Council/Records/2014/Packets/water%20street%20flats%20work%20session%20presentation.pdf ) range from 4% to 21%. Rents for a two bedroom range from $765 to $810 per month.

    Paul Schreiber

  32. Posted February 28, 2014 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    @Scott — if this was an affordable 55+ complex, it might make more sense … would serve a relatively underserved segment

    Actually, the majority of Ypsilanti’s existing affordable housing (e.g. income-restricted / rent-limited) is for seniors. Cross St. Village (the old high school), Town Center (across from Abe’s), and Chidester Place (off Factory near the old Ford plan) are all senior (or non-senior with a disability) affordable housing, and there are several more complexes in the township.

    I believe the only non-age-restricted affordable housing complexes in the city are the ypsi housing commission properties and Hamilton Crossing, and there’s huge demand. I was recently told the YHC waitlist was “getting low”, but that meant “only” 300+ families were on a waitlist for about 200 YHC units.

    If we care about ensuring our residents have affordable housing options, we can’t just look at the most “sympathetic” low-income folks.

  33. anony - the skeptic
    Posted February 28, 2014 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    Hey Murph –

    a couple questions:

    1) This waiting list you speak of is it for Ypsilanti residents only or is it for Washtenaw County residents or unlimited? Who is on the list?

    2) Am I crazy or doesn’t this project represent an increase in housing units for the city – increasing population?

  34. Paul Schreiber
    Posted February 28, 2014 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

    The Ypsilanti Housing Commission typically has a long waiting list for public housing, but Water Street Flats is not public housing.

    Rents for a two bedroom at Water Street Flats are $765 to $810 per month.

    Section 8 rentals are between 4% and 21% at eight other Herman & Kittle properties.

    The proposed site was originally planned to be undeveloped.

    745k$ investment in water and sewer lines for future development.

    The appearance is far from finalized.

    Please stay tuned.

    The Water Street Flats presentation can be downloaded at:

  35. Dan
    Posted March 1, 2014 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    Mayor Schreiber,

    Is/was there the same criteria in Indiana that 100% of the units must be eligible for Section 8 vouchers, as it is in Michigan?

  36. Posted March 1, 2014 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    I’ve asked this before and I ask again in all sincerity…can someone give me an article or anything showing a situation where this sort of project worked out well? I mean that the residents were welcomed to the city, everyone got along, there was no increase in crime, white people didn’t flip the fuck out like we just whispered the secret word on PeeWee’s Playhouse and property values increased?

    I have only really read about situations where housing project moves in, shit hits the fan, white flight, property values blah blah. It may be because that is all the media wants to read (for whatever reason) so I honestly want to see some positive examples.

    I only have two personal examples with things like this and both are extremely negative. I don’t want to be all ALL TEH HOUSING IS BADZ! so I am looking for other examples.

  37. Paul Schreiber
    Posted March 1, 2014 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    Two examples of tax credit financed housing in the city of Ypsilanti are West Cross Village and Hamilton Crossing. West Cross Village was the former Ypsilanti High School. Tax credits allowed renovation of a historic structure while providing senior housing.

    Hamilton Crossing was formerly Parkview Apartments. Parkview had a Section 236 mortgage when it was built in the 1970’s. It fell into disrepair under bad management in the 1990’s and early 2000’s. (For any type of housing, good management is essential.) For the renovation, Parkview was renamed Hamilton Crossing. The southern half of Hamilton Crossing was financed with tax credits from 30% area median income to 50% AMI and the northern half is project-based Section 8 (not tenant vouchers). The project-based Section 8 stays with the units, not with tenants.

    Section 8 financing is all government money. Tax credit financing involves private sector financing with oversight provided by the private sector to ensure their investment over the 15-year term.

    In contrast to Hamilton Crossing, Water Street Flats has 50% to 60% AMI tax credit units, so the rents will be close to market rate and tenants will have higher incomes. A two bedrom unit at Water Street flats will rent from $765 to $810 per month. The percentage of tenant-based Section 8 vouchers at eight other Herman and Kittle properties is between 4% an 21%. I think Ypsilanti will be on the low end of this number if the property is attractive. The property will pay full taxes with no tax abatements.

    If Water Street Flats is approved, we must challenge the developer to design an attractive and energy efficient complex during the planned unit development (PUD) approval process. The Planning Commission and Ypsilanti city council must approve the PUD.

    Paul Schreiber

  38. Dan
    Posted March 1, 2014 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

    The percentage of tenant-based Section 8 vouchers at eight other Herman and Kittle properties is between 4% an 21%. I think Ypsilanti will be on the low end of this number if the property is attractive.

    why do you think this?

  39. Andy. Cameron
    Posted March 1, 2014 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, Paul. Good information.

  40. Tango Uniform
    Posted March 2, 2014 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    Water Street Flat in 40 years:


    The poor leadership in Ypsilanti has no vision. It’s just pathetic to keep making the same mistakes over and over again.

  41. Posted March 2, 2014 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    Paul, thank you! I really appreciate your information!

  42. Posted March 2, 2014 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

    I drive through Ypsilanti today and remarked to myself that nothing much has changed in the nearly 30 years I’ve been in this area.

    If the comments on this site is any indication, Ypsilanti will be exactly the same in 30 more years’ time.

    This picture is really depressing, for a number of reasons, though:


  43. General Demitrios
    Posted March 2, 2014 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

    One thing is for sure. This project has caused me a lot of soul searching. I am constantly fighting for things like leaving the SNAP program in the farm bill, raising minimum wage, improving access to the UofM for minorities. And yet, I find myself totally against the Water Street Flats apartments. Am I a racist, or becoming racist in my old age? I don’t know.

    I know that I am furious about the Reed homicide, and the amount of policing that is sucked up by the Leforge Road Corridor of Terror. I am furious about the Gwinner murder at Parkridge Apartments, and the fact that witnesses declined to testify. I have to try hard to keep telling myself that all of the people that live in these locales are not alike. But I have to say, the people that live in these areas are the target market for Water Street Flats. How am I supposed to expect a different outcome?

    I know what my vision is. Higher average income, not lower. Less rental property, not more. More on campus student housing, not less. Water street as a technology park, not a low income housing project. These things are possible in my view. Ypsi has always been a great location, and it still is. The marketing of the property needs to be more aggressive at trade shows for the medical, pharmaceutical, automotive, and information technology industries. It can easily happen. We are smart. We are cool. We care about each other.

  44. josh
    Posted March 3, 2014 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    Wasn’t Liberty Square occupant owned townhouses complete with an incompetent HOA? You know, the type of housing so many seem to prefer?

  45. The Real Real McCoy
    Posted March 3, 2014 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    General, if that’s how you feel then you need to move on to the next stage of questions: Are you ready to accept a financial manager and/or bankruptcy when the time comes? That’s pretty much where we are at in this stage of the game. This project isn’t going to make a dent in the money Ypsilanti owes on Water Street and it’s not going to attract the type of businesses to drive up property value in nearby buildings. There will be no income tax. So at this point, it’s hold out for the right offer with the few years of money we have left and get it or go down with the ship, cleanse the city’s financial soul and hope that the right person buys the land for even fewer pennies on the dollar than the city gambled.

    This is not a game where Ypsilanti can fold early. The risk of losing is still extremely high, but it’s still better than drastic measures that are futile which screw the next generation of Ypsilantians.

  46. The Real Real McCoy
    Posted March 3, 2014 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    Dan, you ask a great question: Why would this be a HK property that would be on the lower end of a 4 to 21 percent scale for section 8 housing when this city has 28.8 percent of it’s residents living below the poverty line? Looking solely at the numbers it would appear that we would be closer to 21 percent.

  47. Water Street Watcher
    Posted March 4, 2014 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    Richard Murphy has been designated the man to sell this to the masses.


  48. Obj
    Posted March 4, 2014 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    On the plus side our taxes will fall with our property values.

  49. Posted March 4, 2014 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    Water Street Watcher — designated? By whom? News to me, regardless.

    I wrote for my own sake, because I didn’t want the only face Ypsi presents to the world on this to be, “Affordable housing? ZOMG–circle the wagons and break out the torches and pitchforks, because we don’t want more housing for those people….who are actually the majority of us, but we’re painting them as some horrible Other.”

    To reiterate, since you seem not to have actually read the piece: maybe this proposal is right for the city and maybe it’s not–but the naked fear and hatred on display are definitely wrong for Ypsilanti.

  50. Posted March 4, 2014 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    Anony-skeptic (sorry, just checking back after a few days) —

    This waiting list you speak of is it for Ypsilanti residents only or is it for Washtenaw County residents or unlimited? Who is on the list?

    I don’t know who is on the list. I asked a YHC board member what the wait list count was like, and that was the number and comment they gave me.

    Am I crazy or doesn’t this project represent an increase in housing units for the city – increasing population?

    It does represent an increase in housing units and population, which is a great point — that has always been a driving motivation of Water Street. Greater population means economic impacts like increased aggregate buying power for local businesses, as well as budgetary impacts for the city, through increased population-based state revenue sharing and federal formula funds.

    Sure, a lot of the rhetoric flying around has been that the apparently inhuman bottom-sucking slum dwellers who would live in this development will be too busy committing crimes 24/7 to hold down jobs, and so will be a drain on city resources and fail to support local businesses, but I disagree with that presumption.

  51. Anony-skeptic
    Posted March 4, 2014 at 11:01 pm | Permalink

    My understanding is that the list is not limited to Ypsi City residents. Claiming there is a city housing crisis based on attracting people here is a bit much.

    I also think you missed the driver of water street – its to attract new people and bump the income per capita demographics UP not further down.

    Count me among those that are very skeptical of an Out-of-State grant and tax credit hound building something to attract more poor to our City. We have too much experience with this stuff already.

  52. Meta
    Posted March 5, 2014 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    It’s moving forward.

    The Ypsilanti City Council narrowly approved a purchase agreement to move the $12.5 million affordable housing proposal after several residents and community members packed City Hall to speak against the development.

    Council voted 4-3, with Susan Moeller, Ricky Jefferson and Daniel Vogt against it.

    Twenty people spoke and several more waited for council’s decision following a more than three hour discussion on the highly debated proposal.

    Lifelong Ypsilanti resident Steve Taylor was against the proposal.

    “I really really don’t think we need more of what we already have,” he said. “We need something different. We want to stand out. We don’t want to be Ann Arbor. We don’t need to be Willow Run and we don’t need to be Detroit… .I just don’t thin this city needs another kick in the teeth.”

    Taylor’s sentiments were reiterated by several others, but the project will now move onto the next stage which will entail a planned unit development and site plan approval.

    Read more:

  53. Posted March 5, 2014 at 6:59 pm | Permalink


  54. EOS
    Posted March 6, 2014 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    They bought out existing businesses that were contributing to the city’s tax base with the argument that they would attract more substantial business and higher end housing to grow the city revenues. A recreation center and section 8 housing that receives tax credits for the developer and attracts residents of lower than average incomes is not a net gain for the city. Nobody moves to Ypsi because they are fearful of poor people and you certainly can’t make the case that the City is not welcoming to people with lower incomes.

  55. anonymous
    Posted March 6, 2014 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    I agree with much of what Murphy writes in his editorial, and am grateful for it.

    I would begin to respect Murphy, though, if he could own up to the fact that his “legacy” has vested interest in something–anything–happening at Water Street. I would also have found his editorial more ethical if he’d alerted readers to the fact he’s a Chair of the Ypsilanti Planning Commission.

  56. Posted March 6, 2014 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    I suppose this wasn’t enough?

    “Richard Murphy is an Ypsilanti resident and vice-chair of the city of Ypsilanti Planning Commission.”

  57. anonymous
    Posted March 6, 2014 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    I stand corrected. Thanks Peter.

  58. Posted March 6, 2014 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    No problem.

  59. Tom Hubbard
    Posted March 6, 2014 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

    I guess this is mostly a moot discussion at this point, but with respect to the Water St. Flats project eventually resembling the ruined Liberty Square units: If I’m not mistaken, Liberty Square were always market-rate condos occupied by both renters and co-owners.

    I assume that, as someone mentioned above, the homeowner’s association failed to enforce the association bylaws such that the units were kept up to code. I further assume that the condo board consisted mainly of landlords who bought up enough units to vote themselves onto the malfunctioning board.

    None of this means that the Water St. properties *won’t* resemble Liberty Square several decades from now, it’s just that they’re different kinds of properties.

    Mayor Schreiber suggests that the percentage of Section 8 residents at Water St. will be no greater than the percentage at other HKP properties, but frankly I don’t think anyone can be sure.

2 Trackbacks

  1. By Ypsi Immigration Interview: Megan Maurer on March 17, 2014 at 8:25 am

    […] surprising to have it happen here. That kind of honest self-awareness is attractive to me. Even the debate around the Water Street Flats development is surprisingly candid. People are willing to put their very different visions for the site out […]

  2. […] they planned to call Water Street Flats. Things, it would seem, were advancing relatively well, in spite of some citizen pushback against the idea of building more affordable housing downtown, when the Michigan State Housing and Development Authority (MSHDA), a few months ago, issued a […]

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