A message to the poor of Michigan…. You don’t deserve to live in Ann Arbor, that’s what Ypsilanti is for

The Ann Arbor News has a story today about affordable housing in Ann Arbor, and how it’s becoming harder and harder to come by, with Section 8 housing increasingly transitioning to “market rate.” The article revolves around a woman by the name of Megan Mishler, who recently had to relocate to Ypsilanti Township when her Ann Arbor landlord told her that her rent, at the end of the month, would be nearly doubling, from $770 per month to about $1,200. (Mishler had been paying $104 each month, with the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) covering the remaining $666 through their Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program.) According to the Ann Arbor News, such shifts are not uncommon. Here’s a clip from the article.

…Created in 1986, the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program is an indirect federal subsidy used to finance the development of affordable rental housing.

States are allocated tax credits based on population and MSHDA administers the credits to qualified developers that apply for projects in the state. Developers then sell those credits to investors to raise capital, reducing the debt the developer would have to borrow.

Rental rates for Low-Income Housing Tax Credit apartments are adjusted based on the area’s median income as determined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

The program requires developers to keep units affordable for a 15-year compliance period, but landlords can opt to lift rent restrictions once that period expires.

“That is the downside to for-profit developers owning affordable housing in a heated housing market like Ann Arbor,” said Ann Arbor Housing Commission Director Jennifer Hall. “They do not have the long-term mission, like non-profit housing providers, to provide affordable housing. A non-profit provider would try to maintain the housing as below market-rate even after their use restriction expires”…

And, given how hot the housing market is in Ann Arbor these days, it’s not surprising that more and more owners are turning their backs on those people, like Megan Mishler, who have provided steady revenue over the past several decades. According to the Ann Arbor News, “(T)he number of income restricted housing units – which includes public housing, housing choice voucher, Section 8 new construction and low-income housing tax credit units – dropped from more than 2,100 in 2000 to less than 1,600 in 2012.”

Thankfully, though, as a number of people point out in the Ann Arbor News comments section, the poor, who don’t really “deserve” to live in a town as nice as Ann Arbor, can always move east to Ypsilanti… Here, with more on that, is a comment from an Ann Arbor News reader by the name of shepard145.


That’s right. Just price them out of the market… move your “undeserving” citizens to Ypsilanti. Just be done with them, and make your city all the more beautiful in the process.

I don’t have any problem with affordable housing. I think it’s a good thing. What I have a real problem with, however, is segregation. I have a problem with a system where it’s accepted that some towns are “too nice” for the poor. And I find it doubly infuriating when these nice, liberal communities, once they’ve forced their most vulnerable citizens beyond their borders, mount campaigns to stop attempts at regional cooperation, as we recently saw play out in the battle over the AATA’s expanded role in providing bus service within Washtenaw County. Many people in Ann Arbor cried out that they didn’t want their tax dollars going to fund the transportation of people in Ypsilanti, in spite of the fact that many of those people were probably Ann Arborites before they were forced out due to the cost of living. And the same goes for everything from our public schools to our police departments.

It would be one thing if we had comparable schools and city services, but we don’t. The people of Ann Arbor are happy to push their poor to Ypsilanti, but they aren’t so keen to share their tax revenues. So we build more low-income housing, like the Water Street Flats project being planned for our downtown, while, at the same time, we continue to contemplate the merging of our police and fire departments, as we apparently can’t afford to keep the people safe who already live here. It’s an untenable situation, and we’re fast approaching a breaking point.

But things are apparently getting even better in Ann Arbor. In fact, it’s being reported today that they made the Money Magazine list of best places to live… Congratulations!

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  1. Posted September 29, 2014 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

    I’m reminded of our exit interview with Newcombe Clark, who grew up poor in Ann Arbor.

    Here’s what he had to say.

    “If I had a child today and made what my mother raised me on, I likely couldn’t even afford to visit Ann Arbor on a weekend, let alone live downtown, and raise the child in the way that I was. The unique opportunity I had, I don’t think can happen again today for those in similar economic situations, without more market manipulation. I’m OK with this, by the way, and I wish we did more of it. I would just rather see us get there this time by subsidizing housing or commercial rents rather than by building more malls or racially steering people to certain neighborhoods.

    I don’t know what the long-term consequences of the lack of affordable opportunities are. My guess is it means more people in Washtenaw County that are born into poverty will stay in poverty. They don’t get access to a good school system or access to cheap real estate to start businesses. This translates to more people in need and more money spent for long-term care and extended social benefits. Much more money over a much longer time than it would take to just build more affordable housing and maybe subsidize a dozen or so storefronts today.”

  2. Posted September 29, 2014 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

    Is shepard145 personally having his entire paycheck yanked away and given to others? I mean, does the little Monopoly Man run up to him every pay day, punch him in the face, and then throw the money up in the air like Rip Taylor? I mean, to hear this guy (or gal) talk, you’d think that there were legions of people getting everything free like it fell from the sky, and then they sit back and laugh and laugh and laugh at us working stiffs.

    (That said, yes, I realize people game the system…I just don’t think it’s necessary to be that freaking bitter.)

  3. Lynne
    Posted September 29, 2014 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

    That kind of comment infuriates me on so many levels. Why do so many people have to be such jerks? I know part of it is that to admit privilege is to admit that merit alone did not get one to one’s present socioeconomic class but still, the whole “I got mine but F you attitude” especially when in context of government services disgusts me.

    Which isnt to say that I dont have my own selfish side. I find diverse communities offer their own value in terms of quality of life. I feel the loss of what once was and feel that Ann Arbor is turning into just another rich white enclave that is as boring as W Bloomfield or Bloomfield Hills or Farmington Hills.

  4. Heidi
    Posted September 29, 2014 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

    Wow, so what does that make someone like me then…when looking for houses, I couldn’t and still can’t afford Ypsilanti prices!!

    Lynne..couldn’t agree with you more. Grew up in Ypsi, loved the diversity! Ann Arbor started falling apart, when the Army Surplus left and the storefront turned into a high end make up business.

  5. Dirtgrain
    Posted September 29, 2014 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

    Ann Arbor takes care of the homeless better than most places around here. There is that. But Ann Arbor is not the liberal city some claim it is. Despite “desegregation” efforts with the schools, you see big differences between rich-neighborhood schools like Burns Park Elementary and not-so-rich (but it seems getting richer) neighborhood schools like Carpenter Elementary, for instance. Well, this was true–visibly true–seventeen years ago (last time I worked in those buildings).

  6. Lynne
    Posted September 29, 2014 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

    Dirtgrain, my family moved to NE Ann Arbor from Detroit in 1986. There is a neighborhood which feeds Northside Elementary that I kind of like. I certainly like it better than the booooring cookie cutter tri-level 100%white *republican* neighborhood where we lived. At the time it was predominately black.

    Years later I asked my mother why they chose to live where they did instead of the other neighborhood and she told me that the realtors wouldnt show her houses there on the grounds that the schools werent very good. And the kicker? The schools really werent as good or at least they were not rated as highly. It is so messed up.

  7. Milovachan
    Posted September 29, 2014 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

    “Bloomfield Hills, West Bloomfield, Farmington Hills – all very nice…” GAGBARFBARFBARF… ugh sorry I just got excruciating, immediately induced vomiting-diarrhea. I wish screaming “ALL THOSE PLACES ARE SHITHOLES FILLED WITH RICH, SELF IMPORTANT, DOUCHEBAGS, HUN” into my computer would actually result in this idiot hearing it.

  8. Posted September 29, 2014 at 11:55 pm | Permalink

    I was on food stamps, WIC and received some supplemental payments back in 1990-1991. At the time, we were lectured by the social worker on our bad decision to live in Ann Arbor. She recommended that we move to Ypsi, which was more amenable to people like ourselves.

    I took offense and calmly explained to her that Ypsi, as a dumping ground (based on her recommendation) for the poor, unemployed and down and out was actually the worst place for us to live, assuming that we wanted to work, put ourselves through school and be able to access decent educational opportunities for our child. I explained to her that the high rent in Ann Arbor was equivalent to the low rent in Ypsi plus all the transportation and time costs that we would incur by living in Ypsi. She eventually conceded all of my points and agreed to help us out despite that in most cases they would refuse support.

    Not to dis on Ypsi at all, but for a mostly homeless family living on minimum wage, the worst and most unsustainable scenario is one where people like that are segregated out into blighted areas. If people really want to fight “welfare dependency” then allowing poor families who want to live in more affluent areas would be a great place to start.

  9. Demetrius
    Posted September 30, 2014 at 6:43 am | Permalink

    “To whom it may concern:

    I have lived in Ypsilanti for more than 25 years … but I still have not received my free house, free car, or an Obama-phone — and the only “working American” who is paying my bills is me. Is there some form I was supposed to fill out when I moved here …?”

  10. Frosted Flakes
    Posted September 30, 2014 at 7:17 am | Permalink

    Living in a Ypsilanti and commuting to Ann Arbor for work can often times be more expensive than just living and working in Ann Arbor. I think people often underestimate the cost of transportation.

  11. Justin
    Posted September 30, 2014 at 8:06 am | Permalink

    shepherd145 is an ignorant tool and a bully. He has a history of posting total garbage everywhere (See here: http://disqus.com/Shepard145/) . He has been called out for it multiple times (See here: http://philipstead.com/2012/01/09/announcing-the-3rd-annual-phildecott-and-steadbery-awards-also-a-short-essay-on-the-desperate-need-for-friendliness-and-civility-on-the-internet/) .

    Oh, but shpherd145, the internet is a small place. His name is Tom (http://forum.cyberlink.com/forum/posts/listByUser/155094.page;jsessionid=9AD52707EE4CFB1DE166F5A66BA3B40F), he lives in Dexter MI and is 35-49 years old (http://www.tripadvisor.com/members/shepard145) with a wife and two kids (http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g42716-d662806-r75679699-Hotel_Nichols-South_Haven_Van_Buren_County_Michigan.html) and has been known to watch a crappy movie (http://boxofficeboredom.com/2011/02/11/storm-chasers-sean-caseys-imax-film-finally-sees-light-of-day/).

    Kudos, Tom!

  12. Susan Melke
    Posted September 30, 2014 at 8:08 am | Permalink

    I live at Chidester Place apartments in Ypsi. We have a nice community with a pretty good management company. And we have vacancies.

  13. Eel
    Posted September 30, 2014 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    It’s not shepherd145 that’s the problem here. It’s not even the widely held belief that the poor have no place in Ann Arbor. The problem is that Ypsilanti finds itself providing services for those people priced out of Ann Arbor, and Ann Arbor is unwilling to recognize that fact when it comes to divvying up tax revenues. They need to start taking responsibility.

  14. Jean Henry
    Posted September 30, 2014 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    As a 25 year home owner in A2 I really despair for what Ann Arbor has become. If I hadn’t bought my home years ago, I couldn’t afford to live here. My Old West Side neighborhood has lost much of its character. We never had Doctors here before. Librarians and school etchers and workers lived here. My kids are 8 years apart and the difference in diversity of student population at their elementary schools in the intervening years is staggering and depressing. Don’t get me wrong, the people here are very kind and use their privilege to get a lot of good things accomplished (like intervening in the deportation of one of the school parents), but it is all very sterile. On the other hand, I would not base your idea on what Ann Arbor thinks about Ypsi based on mlive commentary. (I wouldn’t base any conclusion on that) And we did vote overwhelmingly in A2 to support the AAATA expansion with many citing that they wanted more connectivity with Ypsi. Ypsi is not a dumping ground. I like to say its where the Ann Arbor I miss can be found. I personally love it there and so do my kids. We would live there for sure but for the current school situation (and some times I question my thinking about that, but a move is a big commitment). Ypsi has a right to be angry about its treatment in the local press, but that too is coming around. What I don;’t want to see is Ypsi feeling lesser than A2. That’s absurd. Both towns offer the other something valuable. I would like to see more cooperation. I would like to see the county focus on downtown Ypsi for local business focussed redevelopment. I see no reason why Ypsi couldn’t retain much of its character and become a social and cultural hub in this area. I think its already on its way there.

  15. Jim Pyke
    Posted September 30, 2014 at 8:30 am | Permalink

    I would very much like to see an investigative write up on the income for the past 10 years or so of Ann Arbor’s top earning landlords.

    I’m not so much interested in shaming people into philanthropy as providing folks like shepard145 with some information that might help them understand how some choices that some people make based on the opportunities they have result in them having so much money that maybe, just maybe, they could reasonably be expected to use some part of that money to help generate real opportunities to advance the socio-economic positions of others.

    And that we could all benefit from such opportunities being created for others.

  16. Patrick Dunn
    Posted September 30, 2014 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    I just want my Obamaphone. Is it similar to a Batphone? I feel left out of the socialist paradise.

  17. Posted September 30, 2014 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    Once upon a time (2004?) when I lived in A2 during grad school, I helped put together a debate between Mayor Hieftje and his challenger, now A2-city councilmember Jane Lumm (I believe she was running then as a Republican, now is an Independent).

    One of my questions of them was on the poor options for lower-income households, such as students who wanted to remain in A2 and buy a house after graduation. AADL’s archive of ArborUpdate is having problems, so I’m relying on memory to paraphrase the Mayor as saying that Ann Arbor didn’t need entry-level homeownership opportunities, because….that’s what Ypsilanti is for: buying a starter home before you get mature enough (in your income bracket) to “buy up” into A2.

    That was generally when I decided Ypsi was the place for me — though I apparently missed out on all the free stuff, and paid a down payment and mortgage like a sucker.

  18. Kristen
    Posted September 30, 2014 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    Have you ever listened to Invincible’s Deuce/Ypsi song?

    Here it is (not really a video, but whateva).


  19. Posted September 30, 2014 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    I do think it’s unfair to characterize *all* Ann Arborites as having exclusionary views. After all, 70%+ voted in support of the expanded AAATA millage, even though A2 residents are already paying 2 mills for the transit system.

    My personal experience is that a lot of Ann Arborites individually like Ypsi and don’t want it to be so separated (/segregated) from A2, but it’s difficult for them to know what they can do about that, let alone advance any solution over the part of A2’s activist class that is generally anti-tax, “back to basics” in their approach to local government, and very loud in their influence.

    Of course, we see many of the same dynamics in play within Ypsilanti — during the Shape Ypsi master planning process, there were residents who showed up to meetings literally saying, “I don’t care what else you do, I just want to keep [those people] out of my neighborhood.” (Rental households, the mentally ill, etc.) During that process, and during the Water Street Flats discussion, there were Ypsilantians saying, “We shouldn’t have any affordable or multi-family housing in my neighborhood — it should be south of Michigan Avenue.” It’s fine to ask A2 and Saline to take on their “fair share” of regional affordable housing needs, but it’s hard to accuse them of being exclusionary when we in turn do our best to concentrate lower income residents “somewhere else” within Ypsi.

  20. Posted September 30, 2014 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    Judging by some of the comments on this site, I would argue that Ypsi in many ways is far more or at least as exclusionary than Ann Arbor.

  21. Mr. Y
    Posted September 30, 2014 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    Murph is right. This is not exclusive to Ann Arbor. There are plenty of people in Ypsilanti who don’t relish the idea of Section 8 housing in their neighborhoods. On the whole, though, I’d say that Ypsilanti in more welcoming of such things, and I believe the numbers would support that fact. Also, Jean is right when she points out that a majority of Ann Arbor residents supported the AATA expansion. This isn’t a black and white issue. All Ann Arbor residents are not evil, and all of us in Ypsi are not without blame. With that said, however, poor people are being pushed toward Ypsilanti and it’s got to be having an impact on our already seriously strained community services. These are questions that need to be addressed.

  22. Jeremy Peters
    Posted September 30, 2014 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    Fellow Ann Arborites:

    This isn’t a good look. We need some **real progressive** movement on affordable housing, and soon.


    The next City Council meeting is on October 6th at 7:00p at City Hall. Let the entirety of Council know.

    Coincidentally, if you don’t agree with your council member’s response, that’s the last day to register to vote for the November 4th election.

  23. idea man
    Posted September 30, 2014 at 10:44 am | Permalink


  24. kjc
    Posted September 30, 2014 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    “Ann Arbor started falling apart, when the Army Surplus left and the storefront turned into a high end make up business.”

    ha. reminds me of how much i loved rag-o-rama when i first moved to michigan [seems like a dream to me now].

  25. Back Yard
    Posted September 30, 2014 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    It’s great to see such a focus on affordability in these comments. (I’m assuming the point is to think more about this, rather than focus on the Tea Party idiots.)

    Clearly, as noted by the lack of proposed policy solutions, it’s not easy to fix. It starts with privately-owned land prices going up near jobs/UM, the schools near the jobs improving, which creates its own feedback cycle of exclusion and higher land prices. Rinse, repeat. Articles on gentrification are a dime a dozen. Desirable places can afford better services, and unless you have a policy in place, you can’t fault private land owners from doing what’s best for them. (Well you can, but I’m not sure it’s productive.)

    The question is what to do, right? I’d encourage people who are upset about these issues to get involved. Have you volunteered for any of your city or township boards or commissions? Have you talked to your mayor? Have you voted each time for your local elected officials? There is help that can be found on the state and local level. Ann Arbor is one of the only cities in Michigan that contributes to human services out of its general fund, so can we make a stronger case for more? We’re moving in the right direction on bus service, but did you know that there’s a substantial number of people who’d rather build a park than have better rail service? Who get apoplectic when we talk about consolidating school districts or allowing granny flats? Or heaven forbid collaborating on *anything* across city lines? Regionalism is roundly obstructed in this country. We could do better in Michigan with some leadership.

    No city has figured out a solution to maintaining affordability—right now, you can just chip away at it.

  26. Demetrius
    Posted September 30, 2014 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    @ Mr. Y.

    I think that some of the hostility toward affordable/Section 8 housing you may be sensing coming from Ypsilanti residents is not because folks here oppose it per se … but rather because many feel that Ypsilanti is *already* hosting more than its fair share of this type of housing … compared to Ann Arbor, Saline, Dexter, Chelsea, etc.

    While I personally supported the Water Street Flats proposal, I certainly got an earful from many of my neighbors who opposed it — with many saying they felt it was high time that other communities in Washtenaw County stop feeling that the only solution to our area’s affordable housing problem is simply to build more of this type in Ypsilanti … and in the process, absolving themselves of any responsibility.

  27. Demetrius
    Posted September 30, 2014 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    I would add that … I think that for Ypsilanti to be successful going forward, we need a work to achieve a better “mix” of housing types and price ranges. While this might include some additional transitional and affordable housing — we should also be thinking about more middle-income and even higher-end development , as well as housing options suited to different types of families and different life stages (young people, families with children, couples without children singles, seniors, etc.).

  28. jcp2
    Posted September 30, 2014 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think housing mix is the solution. Good schools are. People with children of school age want their kids to have a good education. Option one is to live in an area with good public schools. This is one that is most commonly chosen, and drives up price differentials between neighborhoods if school enrollment is based on geography. Option two is to live in an area with less expensive housing and send the kids to a school other than the public school that their address is zoned for. This could be a charter, a magnet, a school of choice, a private school. If all the schools were uniformly decent, then I think a lot of the pricing differential for otherwise identical housing stock would be decreased. There still would be price differentials based on access to other desirable amenities, and perhaps those with the lowest earned income levels would not be able to afford to live anywhere decent , but I would prefer to address that with a reverse income tax/basic minimum guaranteed income, rather than with directed housing subsidies, which are much more easily manipulated against the potential beneficiaries own interest.

  29. Posted September 30, 2014 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    Holy shit, Justin! That’s pretty awesome info.

    I live in Ann Arbor also and do not share Tom/Shepard145’s views. As others have lamented above, I’m not delighted with the direction we are going. At first, I was not excited about how we had basically become a downtown of boutique stores/”upscale” (BECAUSE ALL MUST BE UPSCALE GODDAMMIT) restaurants for rich people (with, of course, notable exceptions!). Now we are becoming a downtown of high rise apartments for ultra wealthy UM students.

  30. idea man
    Posted September 30, 2014 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    Document Ann Arbor while you can. It won’t be long before it’s gone.

  31. site admin
    Posted September 30, 2014 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    The Detroit Metro Times picked up the story.


    Here’s one of their comments, from someone named Ed.

    There’s millions of shepard145s out there… they are the cultural shock troops and ongoing administrators for that very small ruling class. They are my parents, my brothers, my sisters, and some acquaintances. And they were me. They don’t see themselves as such, as they are somewhat lost in their own imagery and sloganeering. Ah, if life could only be a John Wayne movie, where the rugged individualist slugs it out and makes good in the end. I’m sure most are good people, with good intentions, with an upbringing that reinforced and rewarded this thinking. I know this sounds smug, and it’s not intended to be.

    These folks are largely trying to force that framework onto everyone else, without realizing that they don’t serve themselves (other than confirming for themselves that they are “good people”), but rather feed into a distracting sideshow that serves the greater plans for the controllers. John Wayne movies are simple and simplistic by design, and they do hold some basic morals that work great for a functioning society. Where they depart from any resemblance to a productive and evolved reality is in the solutions to the problems. Ya ever notice how everything gets resolved when the hero imposes his will with some form of violence? He bends his wife over his knee and sets her right with a spanking… he beats the crap out of lesser evil actors, and puts a bullet in the real bad guys… every conversation is gruff, and orders are barked.

    The American public largely feeds on this myths. How can any of us avoid it? We’re getting the message of violence-as-solution day and night, on TV, in conversation…its just part of our current collective understanding. I read shepard145s comments and can see the underlying violence-as-solution meme running through it. Their solutions are not solutions, and that’s just the way the controllers want it. They need sheps, or sheep, throughout society to keep the violence-as-solution rule alive, to continue to stoke discord and disagreement among us. That’s how we’re controlled, by fighting among ourselves. The last thing they want is for us to get together, to get to know each other. Many sheps would silence themselves, once they had an understanding of another’s situation.

    Heaven forbid us to come up with our own solutions based in love and understanding, next. Then we’d discover that we don’t need the preacher, the politician, the lawyer, or the businessman quite so much. That possibility surely has the Mitt Romneys of the world crapping in their Mormon underwear.

  32. Frosted Flakes
    Posted September 30, 2014 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

    I am sorry but I don’t believe that Shepard145’s comment represents the views of many people at all. I am not saying that Ann Arbor policy regarding affordable housing is not an important thing to discuss but rooting the discussion in an opinion that is being “sold as” the opinion of many in Ann Arbor is not helpful.

  33. Stephen
    Posted September 30, 2014 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

    while I appreciate the inclusive sentiment most are expressing, I fail to see how this is a racial issue, or how Ann Arborites (myself included) are driving the less fortunate to Ypsilanti. As does everyone here, I love Ann Arbor and I am very fortunate to live here. That being said, it is an expensive city. Not to sound overly-harsh but why does someone deserve a premier living situation like a home in Ann Arbor if they cannot pay for it themselves? Is it really such an elitist idea to expect people not to buy things they cannot afford?

  34. Newcombe
    Posted September 30, 2014 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

    Wow….there is still heat to the memory of this for me.

    A year, and 250 miles out, a couple of thoughts:

    It’s very difficult to escape the Helen Lovejoy aspect of this debate. All sides are trying to protect the future and “…Think of the Children”, while all sides are also desperate for leaders that will (“Won’t someone…?!”).

    Simple truth is, talented leadership or not, there are no easy answers. While there is a lot that people could do to improve housing affordability, there is little known about what people SHOULD do. Most prosperous metro areas all over the world face the same crises of identity and conscience. The non-prosperous areas (aka the majority of the Planet) are frying bigger fish. Assuming they have fish…or the ability to fry them…which they statistically probably don’t.

    Not to say that there is nothing to be done, or things that can’t be tried. Every culture is different, but most push forward some attempt to address the issue.

    Japan, rich in history and preservation, but always forward thinking, does it like this: (http://nextcity.org/daily/entry/japan-shows-the-way-to-affordable-megacities).

    Closer to a comparable set, Madison, WI does it like this:(http://www.cityofmadison.com/news/city-of-madison-affordable-housing-strategy)….

    My current home, Chicago…and man, talk about income inequality….tries to do it like this: (http://www.chicagotrustfund.org/affordable-housing-resources.html)

    Ann Arbor…well… TBD I suppose. Point being–and as with most things that I think holds Metro Ann Arbor back and simultaneously propels her forward–the status quo is not so bad. At least it’s not bad enough for enough people to feel compelled to step up at great personal sacrifice and force better policy, or leadership, or creativity….
    and as I’ve said before, I think that’s not so terrible a thing. It’s a rather blessed thing. I feel personally fortunate to have lived 32 years in a place having sacrificed comparatively little and benefited relatively greatly.

    But I as always appreciate the rigor and thoughtfulness blog posts like this (and the commentators) put into advancing the agenda towards an even better status quo.

    Don’t give up. Please keep talking about it. Keep trying new things. I’m encouraged by the glimmers of positive momentum pointed out above, and amid, the understandable angst.


    The Guy Who Moved Away

  35. Packer
    Posted September 30, 2014 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

    Hey Stephen, the question to answer would be, Why does family X in West Willow have limited means, while I am comfortable and content? It’s the answer to that question that situates you.

  36. Stephen
    Posted October 1, 2014 at 1:56 am | Permalink

    Packer, I guess that’s more of a philosophical response than a political one, but I do see where your coming from. I think that my issue with this piece was that it seemed very accusatory. When I think of rising home prices I think that is an indicator of an economy that has been thriving, thus garnering more housing interest and higher incomes. Yet, this article seems to place blame on average citizens of Ann Arbor for being greedy and elitist whether or not they have the slightest effect on real estate. I wish we could view the rising costs as a success, accept that, and then have a constructive conversation on how to include everyone in our success. Yet this piece seems to vilify the average Ann Arborite for being an elitist, stuck-up rich guy who doesn’t care about anyone other than himself. Having lived here for 20+ years I don’t buy it. If you want to promote Sec. 8 and affordable housing, that is one thing. I just think we can do it without the unfounded criticism of the very people that make it possible.

  37. Jean Henry
    Posted October 1, 2014 at 4:41 am | Permalink

    I guess my question for Stephen and everyone in A2 is what kind of town do we want to be? Because if we want to grow (and we’re growing– there’s no stopping that train without becoming more exclusionary) and maintain some degree of diversity, then we need to start advocating for practices that protect that. The development everyone sees as evidence of us becoming inextricably wealthier actually presents an opportunity for inclusion. I do believe we want to be a better town. I don;t think we know how. And I think, even having that conversation could make us better informed advocates for what we want. It often seems the voting population lives in an economic fantasy land in which the only thing standing between their town being inclusive and small business- friendly is some Mr Money bags rich development dude. When, in fact, it is us–not believing we have enough money to pay more taxes, not wanting tall buildings or poor people there (where? Next door). We suspect we’re being ripped off by a planned library expansion. We suspect every public mission of greed as cover for our own. It’s not intentional. I don’t think we see it in ourselves or we would stop. We need public discourse. I would like to double down on Jeremy Wheeler’s call to action at October’s city council meeting. Maybe we can pull together a group to advocate for affordable housing protections. I’m sure we will all learn a lot if we even begin to have the conversation about how to go about providing that.

  38. kjc
    Posted October 1, 2014 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    “I wish we could view the rising costs as a success, accept that, and then have a constructive conversation on how to include everyone in our success.”

    and i wish i could ride a magic carpet to work every day but that’s not how shit works. google david harvey or something. or read the newspaper. maybe look out the car window. jesus.

    you”re so defensive about being personally attacked, you couldn’t possibly fathom the issue. if you were as concerned about the inequities of our society as you are about being called an asshole, then you wouldn’t be one.

  39. Lynne
    Posted October 1, 2014 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    Stephen, years ago I worked for a non-profit organization which runs adult foster care homes in Washtenaw country. When they were trying to open a group home for mentally ill *geriatric* clients, the neighborhood opposition was MUCH worse in Ann Arbor than it was in Ypsilanti. The anti-poor anti-disabled anti-mentally ill sentiments expressed were truly horrible. It reminded me of when I used to live on the west side of Ann Arbor and someone was trying to convert a hotel on Jackson road into a woman’s shelter and I refused to sign the petition against it, I was shunned by all of my neighbors. I think the accusatory tone is completely deserved.

    Jean Henry, yes exactly!

  40. Charlie
    Posted October 1, 2014 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    The fair market value of real estate is always determined by what someone is willing to pay for it. That’s it end of story- there is no segregation plot at work here. This is elementary economics. Ann Arbor just got voted, “The Most Educuated City in America,” and it’s highly embarrassing, and irresponsible for the same people to imply that Ann Arbor is a town of racists because people don’t understand economics.

  41. Lynne
    Posted October 1, 2014 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    Charlie, the racism comes in with macroeconomic policies designed to keep the rich white people in Ann Arbor from paying for services for poor people by economically forcing them out of the city while simultaneously advocating against policies which might result in similar services as they enjoy being available to the poor who have been pushed out by normal market forces.

    Please do not assume that it is a lack of understanding about the field of Economics which is behind people’s opinions, especially when you are offering a very simplistic Econ 101 view yourself.

  42. anonymous
    Posted October 1, 2014 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    Charlie, if you think a little more deeply, what you’ll find is some of us are calling attention to the fact of the *complicity* of the average person who chooses to live, and be comfortable in living, in an exclusive area.

    And, further, I would stress that “going to vote” and “shopping at the farmers market” (among other conventions of the white liberal lifestyle) aren’t enough to offset the byproducts of this complicity.

  43. Brainless
    Posted October 1, 2014 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    Charlie, the state of Michigan has subsidized Ann Arbor to the tune of BILLIONS of dollars over the years. Kinda shitty for the citizenry not to share the wealth. Yeah, markets are what markets are. How about we also kick out the U and charge market prices for their real estate, too? The U seems like bunch of commie bullshit, anyway.

    Where does this end?

  44. Jean Henry
    Posted October 1, 2014 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    I’d like to add this from Burlington VT to the list of possible economic development models that Newcombe cited: https://www.boarddocs.com/vt/burlingtonvt/Board.nsf/files/9LELGZ567D5D/$file/Communication%20City%20of%20Burlington%20Diversity%20%20Equity%20Strategic%20Plan.pdf

    Imagine if A2 took all those degrees and applied them to addressing this issue with a similar level of commitment?

  45. JamesJ
    Posted October 1, 2014 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    That comment from shepard145 pretty much sums up the Ann Arbor of today. Anyone that thinks A2 is the bastion of liberalism it may have once been is sadly, sadly mistaken.
    I witnessed the slow decline of the once funky liberal a2 into an elitist wealth based town starting in the 90s through the 2000’s. The town is very Conservative now. For conservatives, by conservatives. Glad I got out when I did after 20 years, no regrets and I won’t ever be back.

  46. Posted October 1, 2014 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    Charlie (and Stephen), the idea that the real estate and housing markets are any kind of unfettered free market is wishful thinking. The realities of zoning ordinances, parking requirements, building and rental codes, etc, for better or worse all serve to skew the market — so the question is not whether or not the patterns we see are the result of free market forces at work, but rather, because housing and development patterns are strongly influenced by public policy actors on a dozen different levels, what are the goals that we should be trying to advance with those policies? That’s the question being asked here.

    If you want to talk racism, I’ll recommend “The Case for Reparations” by Ta-Nehisi Coates — at a mere 15,000, it’s a very brief summary of the intersection of race and American property / housing policy.

  47. Posted October 1, 2014 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    “15,000 WORDS”, that is.

  48. Posted October 1, 2014 at 10:31 pm | Permalink

    @Lynne – there is some hope for change in Ann Arbor, if you take Northside as an example.

    Northside Elementary was indeed a failing school – down to ~150 students last year due to rampant bullying and other issues largely unaddressed by the former principal.

    This year, Northside is ~400 students, with a new principal and faculty that have volunteered to be part of Ann Arbor’s first dedicated STEAM program and project-based learning. Some teachers and students there left private schools to join in the effort. It’s not guaranteed to work, and there are certainly rough edges all around, but it’s decisive action where needed, including a building renovation, all over the course of a summer. The new superintendent led the school board quickly to action, and the community has responded in kind.

    We took our own son out of the top-scoring public elementary school this year to have him join the experiment at Northside, which is indeed diverse in ways King Elementary (just blocks from Greenhills, the most expensive private school in town) was not. I admit we, and other parents leaving private schools such as Summer-Knoll, are as motivated by the boutique educational experiences here (like Ann Arbor Open) as egalitarian concern (I’m a geek, my son is too – and I wish every kid had that choice) – but public schools are a social institution, and I’m proud to see Ann Arbor do the right thing for schools in crisis. But it takes leaders willing to stick their neck out to drive change.

    Other efforts push in similar directions. My wife now leads an educational foundation raising private money to benefit the public schools, attempting to float all boats with awards specifically to programs that partner have and have-not schools (based on PTO budgets), etc. We have to close the gap.

    If a state like Utah can end homelessness, a city like Ann Arbor can certainly figure out sensible policies for growth and affordable housing!

  49. Patrick Haggood
    Posted October 1, 2014 at 11:40 pm | Permalink

    I contemplated moving to and thus visited San Francisco about 15yrs ago; on my return I realized that Michigan doesn’t *have* any expensive houses.

  50. Posted October 2, 2014 at 4:22 am | Permalink

    I’m finding all of the dissing on Ann Arbor over social policy somewhat confusing.

    Coming from Mississippi and looking at other Michigan cities (including Ypsilanti), Ann Arbor’s policies and popular attitudes are quite good. Granted, nowhere is perfect and there is certainly room for improvement, but I’m wondering if the readership here might need to get out a little more.

    Where I come from, this type of discussion wouldn’t even begin. Politically, it would be impossible to effect any sort of change there.

  51. MotownDeltaLady
    Posted October 2, 2014 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    I read the comments and one glaring miss in my opinion is that the original comment makes the assumption that the person receiving housing assistance isn’t working. Isn’t it possible to work 40 hrs be very lowly paid and still get assistance? What if the person is disabled? The nut jobs like shepard145 make me so tried and sad for our culture.

  52. daveLaFave
    Posted October 2, 2014 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    From 1994 to 2010 I rented shitty little squalor cubes all over beautiful Ann Arbor, one bedrooms and efficiencies from $800 to $1200 a month and ate nothing. PAarking wasn’t difficult, it was impossible. In 2011, Kurt and I gave up on A2 and now, my partner and I rent a four bedroom house with fenced in backyard, lovely back deck, enormous front yard under the glorious ancient maples and pines of storied Normal Park for $900 a month. With my trusty little bus pass I travel into Ann Arbor every single day to work where I make plenty of money to frequent the overpriced maze of new restaurants (one opens every twenty minutes on Liberty) and “amusements” – but I don’t. My heart belongs to Ypsilanti as a town flush with pride and drive, a town that takes care of the people who love it. I don’t need 18 different types of smoothies, marketing directors opening offices in cavernous spaces better suited for schools or group “work” spaces where everyone is fine tuning their social networks… what I DO need is a community of people actively improving their Middle Class in affordable and creative ways, like Ypsilanti. Ypsi’s good enough for me and I’m good enough for Ypsi. Kisses!

  53. kjc
    Posted October 2, 2014 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    daveLaFave for the win.

  54. wobblie
    Posted October 21, 2014 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

    I am posting here because when I did a search of “segregation” on this site, this is the result. I just recently learned that Viola Liuzzo , was a resident of our fair city. For those who do not know Violo, this is a useful link.

    I am attempting to find out exactly where she lived. I think naming a street or other public place in her honor is more than justified. We have several streets named in honor of war criminals (Westmorland, Grant, Sheridan, Sherman) but as near as I can tell, no streets named after a true patriot such as Viola. I think renaming Summit St., Viola Viuzzo Ave. would be great.

  55. Posted December 1, 2014 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

    Congratulations to so many of you for rolling out of bed at noon and slinging together so many nearly incoherent sentences. Perhaps I was too hard on the never work class by suggesting our most disposable occupants leave Ann Arbor – this board is not just about liberal fools babbling about issues they don’t understand – it’s about solutions!

    We enact a 2 step solution – expressions of gratitude followed by participation! Everyone who collects welfare / free housing in Ann Arbor would be required by “local ordinance” to thank those of us who pay their bills with our work. Every year at Christmas they would put on a FREE event thanking us all. The type of event must be approved by the Mayor’s office (representing tax payers) to count towards next year’s hand-outs.

    At locations around the City following a prescribed format, they would dress up in funny costumes and dance around to entertain us, put on a short play or sing. In closing their performances, they tell us all how they are improving themselves and working towards getting a job. They would provide documented examples of where the applied for work, why they were not hired and what they were doing to not make the same mistake.

    The audience of the employed would then shout advice and tips to them that they would write down and keep in a little red notebook they would be required to carry at all times when in the City limits.

    Once they do find jobs and begin paying taxes again, they are welcome to join the audience and contribute to others. WIN-WIN!

  56. Demetrius
    Posted December 1, 2014 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

    @ shepard145

    What have you done with “John Galt?”

  57. A2 Homeless to Ypsi
    Posted December 16, 2014 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    The homeless people who were recently pushed off of land in Ann Arbor have begun to migrate to Ypsilanti.


  58. anonymous
    Posted December 18, 2014 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    It’s just been pointed out to the people of Ann Arbor that the non-rich can’t afford to live there.


  59. anonymous
    Posted January 13, 2015 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    Laughing my ass off. Ann Arbor had to be pay a consultant to tell them that average people couldn’t afford to live here.

    “Consultant tells Ann Arbor officials housing affordability an issue for many”


  60. Elbert Havard IV
    Posted July 30, 2015 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    I don’t understand why pushing poor away is considered racism. There are more poor white people then what make up all the minorities combined. It is classcism. At least use the right terminology in your hate. Of course if you used this terminology the racist people everyone seems so worried about might open their hearts and their purse strings to help those more like them to rise up.

    Being a poor white person growing up, many more well off whitw people I would come in contact with helped me in many ways. I wonder if they would have if I was a minority. Instead of using racism as an excuse, understand the fact of there being more poor whites than any kind of people in America and there may be a wave of rich people helping the poor as a group, also helping minorities causing a wave to bring everyone. Racist whites may not want to live with poor minorities, keep that image out of their heads when asking them for affordable housing. They may be more apt to help poor whites if their plight is brought to the forefront.

  61. abracadubra
    Posted July 30, 2015 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

    the bigger question, DaveLafave, is how did you find a $900/mo place like that in Normal Park and who is your landlord?!?! It’s getting harder even in Ypsi these days….

4 Trackbacks

  1. […] their borders, they’re no longer their problem. And I don’t much appreciate the, “Well, that’s what Ypsi is for” sentiment that permeates these […]

  2. […] But not everyone wants to listen to reason. Many in our area genuinely believe the poor of Michigan don’t deserve Ann Arbor – that’s what Ypsilanti is for. […]

  3. […] Before I let you go, I’m curious to know what you think about the dynamic between Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti relative to affordable housing, economic segregation and poverty, and what role you might have, if […]

  4. […] • A message to the poor of Michigan… You don’t deserve to live in Ann Arbor, that’s what Yps… […]

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