Annarbourites ask, “Why can’t Ypsi just take all of our poor?” Consultant explains.

“So, why isn’t Ypsilanti a good long-term solution for Ann Arbor’s affordable housing issues?”

That’s how the story in today’s Ann Arbor News about the work of a consulting firm brought in by the County to assess where we stand relative to affordable housing begins. The onus, it would seem, is on Ypsi. The question isn’t, “How can we better serve the poor?”, but “Why can’t Ypsi just deal with it?” And, yeah, that kind of ticks me off. As we’ve discussed before, I don’t much like the suggestion on the part of some Annarbourites that our community exists primarily in order to keep those they see as undesirable out of their beautiful neighborhoods and away from their successful, well-funded public schools.

Again, I should be clear that it’s not people with lower incomes that I have an issue with. I purposely chose to live in Ypsilanti, knowing full well that many in this community live in poverty. And I did so not because I saw an opportunity for gentrification, but because I genuinely love this diverse, quirky, beautiful, albeit occasionally crazy, community. And, for what it’s worth, I couldn’t imagine myself living in Ann Arbor. So these aren’t the ramblings of a man who wants Ypsi to become a quiet little bedroom community of Ann Arbor, with a downtown PF Chang’s and soaring property values. And these aren’t the rantings of a man who wants to build a wall in order to keep out Ann Arbor’s economic refugees. I know a lot of folks moving here because they can no longer afford Ann Arbor, and they’re great people. No, these are the rantings of a man who is pissed about the commonly held belief in Ann Arbor that, once the poor have been pushed beyond 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 conversations.

And before you start posting here, saying, “I live in Ann Arbor, and I’m not like that,” I’ll concede that there are some pretty good folks in Ann Arbor who genuinely care about things like diversity and equality, and see the wisdom of a more coordinated, regional approach to issues like those we’re discussing today. Unfortunately, however, my sense is that they’re an increasingly small and quiet minority. Sure, the recent ballot initiative concerning the funding of our new multi-district public transportation system went the right way, and more folks in Ann Arbor voted for the measure than against it, but it shouldn’t have been a close contest at all. And I found that fact to be incredibly discouraging… all the talk from well-off Annarbourites about “our tax dollars” and how they should only go toward providing services that “we” use, completely neglecting to see the obvious, which is that these services, to a large extent, are being used by people who once lived in the increasingly gated communities of Ann Arbor, only to be forced out… people who, by the way, still work in their community, doing their dry cleaning, stocking the shelves of their favorite stores, caring for their children, and preparing their food.

I would have thought that a proudly liberal community that once rallied against apartheid in South Africa might be better at picking up the telltale signs of segregation under their own noses, but maybe it’s harder to see when you’re in the middle of it, when it’s your property values and school rankings that you’re concerned about… Sure, in theory, you love the poor, but why can’t that new affordable housing complex be built in Ypsi, right?

So the folks to our west are seriously asking, “So, why isn’t Ypsilanti a good long-term solution for Ann Arbor’s affordable housing issues?” Why, in other words, can’t we live in the paradise that we deserve, with good schools and streetlights that work, while the poor live on the other side of 23, sending their kids to questionable charter schools in darkness?

We’ve talked, here on the site, about the decreasing availability of affordable housing in Ann Arbor for years, but apparently it just recently became a real thing that folks there are talking about. I think it was our friends at Concentrate who declared in December, “Is Ann Arbor affordable? Nope. And it’s official.” Not even the middle class, they said, “(can) afford to live in Ann Arbor.” It’s one thing for me to say it, it’s another to have an entity like Concentrate, which is generally all about economic development and entrepreneurship, says it. When I saw that headline, I knew we’d finally reached some kind of tipping point. I don’t know that it will change anything, but at least people are now beginning to talk about it, and that’s a good thing.

The genesis of this Concentrate article, if you’re recall, was the release of the initial findings connected to the Washtenaw County’s Affordable Housing Needs Assessment, a study commissioned, not by Ann Arbor, but by the County. And it was this study, now completed, that the Ann Arbor News was writing about today. Here’s an image from the first page of the study, followed by a clip from the Ann Arbor News.

Screen shot 2015-01-13 at 9.39.12 PM

So, why isn’t Ypsilanti a good long-term solution for Ann Arbor’s affordable housing issues?

“It’s a logical question,” says Rob Krupicka, a Virginia-based consultant hired to study housing affordability in Washtenaw County.

“The challenge is that Ypsilanti is getting close to 30 percent poverty, which puts it in company with some cities that you really don’t want to be in company with,” Krupicka told Ann Arbor officials Monday night. “When you get close to 30 percent or more in poverty, your ability to recover from that becomes almost impossible.”

If low-income people continue to concentrate in Ypsilanti while Ann Arbor grows wealthier, the result is an unhealthy imbalance, essentially socioeconomic segregation, and the region’s affordable housing issues won’t be solved, Krupicka said during a special joint session of the Ann Arbor City Council and Planning Commission…

Krupicka said the “balance problem” between Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti is the most troublesome issue the county faces.

“You are increasingly becoming a county with an area of concentrated wealth and an area of the opposite,” he said.

He said communities in the country that grow the best and the most sustainably are the most socio-economically integrated.

“And you all are kind of moving in the opposite direction where you have a hot housing market and you have a not so hot housing market; and you have folks with high school degrees or less, and folks with college degrees or more,” he said.

Krupicka cited statistics suggesting, since 1979, the people in the top 10 percent in Ann Arbor have seen their incomes grow by almost 20 percent, while the people in the bottom 10 percent have seen their incomes decline by almost 15 percent.

“So the first way this imbalance is manifesting in your economy is those at the top are doing much, much better, and those at the bottom are doing worse,” he said, adding that equates to a lot of lost economic potential for the region…

Of course, it’s nothing we didn’t already know, and it’s kind of funny that we had to pay someone from out-of-state to come in and tells us, but I suppose it’s good that the conversation is finally being had. Hopefully people in Ann Arbor will take it seriously. And hopefully it’s not too late.

As for the report, if you’re interested, it can be found here. Of particular interest to readers of this site are the Implementation steps, which begin on page 38. Here’s a bit of that.


As I’ve yet to make my way through the entire report, I reached out to former Ypsilanti City Planner Richard Murphy and asked for his thoughts. Here’s what he had to say.

It’s not just affordable housing in Ann Arbor – it’s “housing affordability and equity” throughout the A2/Ypsi urban area.

The findings are nothing terribly new – housing costs in Ann Arbor are high and rising, while a disproportionate number of our area’s low-income residents live in Ypsi and Ypsi Township. (But many still face affordability challenges here: 23% of Ypsi City families with incomes between $35k and $50k pay an unaffordable share of their income for housing.)

The framing of solutions is more novel, and better addresses the regional nature of the market than most commenters who focus on one municipality or one neighborhood: in order to share the “burden” of affordability and the benefits of access to education and job opportunities equitably within the region, Ann Arbor / Pittsfield need to increase the supply of housing at all levels of affordability, while Ypsi City / Township need to increase the demand for housing – Ypsi City is currently “short of its fair share” of working, college-educated households by almost 1,400 households. (The township is short by about 3,000.)

I think a lot of folks in Ypsi are going to jump to, “see, I told you we need fewer poor people” (or fewer renters), but that’s not the conclusion of the report at all – it’s that, as a Washtenaw County priority, Ypsi (and the Township) need support in being competitive with Ann Arbor, Saline, or Canton for households whose incomes let them be choosy.

And they’re not shy in laying out the level of solutions needed, e.g. “Create a unified Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti School District”, to address the biggest barrier for attracting those households, or “Acquire and demolish obsolete pre-1930 wood-framed houses throughout the Township” to help right the supply/demand.

Considering that this is a *county* analysis/plan, I’ll be interested to see how they start using their resources to lead implementation on some of these.

I guess now we’ll have to wait and see what everyone does with this report, and how much, if any, effort is put into exploring the possibility of a “unified Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti School District,” for instance. One would hope the people of Ann Arbor would see the wisdom in it, but I’m not hopeful, given recent history. And, to be fair, the people of Ann Arbor have other priorities right now, like the rollout of an ambassador program, which would put a small army of people on their lovely downtown streets, doing things like “opening doors for people,” and “lending umbrellas.” This, as they say, is necessary in order to “enhance the user experience.” Sure, it’s projected to cost them $900,000 over the next three years, but it’s not like there are more pressing needs, like providing housing for those who can no longer afford to live in a community where there’s talk of hiring paid door openers to improve user experience.

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  1. Posted January 13, 2015 at 10:54 pm | Permalink

    Murph, in a subsequent email, also noted that some might see this report as justifying their belief that the Water Street Flats affordable housing project should not go forward in Ypsilanti. He disagrees. Here’s his take on it.

    Also, I’ve pointed out previously that the level of “affordability” proposed for Water Street Flats would put rents at close to the same prices of Maurers’ michigan avenue lofts (where you can also use section 8 vouchers, incidentally), and allow families making more than the Ypsi median income to live there.

    So even where this report says we need to limit affordable housing development in Ypsi / Twp, the language uses is, “Ensure any investments in affordable and/or workforce housing meet or exceed the median cost of housing in the jurisdiction.”

    ….Which WSF does, so this report doesn’t even provide basis for turning down that proposal.

  2. Posted January 13, 2015 at 10:57 pm | Permalink

    And, for what it’s worth, former Ypsilanti Mayor Paul Schreiber agrees with him about Water Street Flats. Here’s what Paul had to say on the subject.

    I think that Ypsilanti must maintain or strengthen its affordable housing stock but not grow it. Hamilton Crossing is a great example of improving the existing affordable housing stock in Ypsilanti.

    Water Street Flats may be seen as expanding affordable housing, but the units are really market rate with the income levels aimed higher than Hamilton Crossing. Also, Water Street Flats will pay taxes, develop a piece of property that was thought to be undevelopable, and provide roads, water, and sewer for other developments.

    I agree with Murph’s comments… Ann Arbor must expand their affordable housing stock and Ypsilanti must expand the market-rate housing stock.

  3. Posted January 13, 2015 at 11:05 pm | Permalink

    One last thing… a caveat about the proposed Ambassador program in Ann Arbor… While it sounds dopey, the idea of happy smiling people on Segways, opening doors for people and the like, it might not be all bad. These people, as I understand it, wouldn’t just be opening doors, and carrying people from their SUVs into places like PF Chang’s. According to the story, they would also be engaging with at-risk populations, and doing some of those things we like to have members of our police force doing. So, maybe it’s a cost effective way to push a little further with the concept of community policing. (Ambassadors will be paid approximately $10 an hour, which is considerably less than police officers make.) So, yeah, I’d probably make fun of it if Ann Arbor rolled out an army of Walmart-like greeters across the city, but I can see that there might be an up-side. Personally, though, I’d rather see the money used on affordable housing, or putting in place programs to help Ann Arbor’s economic refugees.

  4. Posted January 13, 2015 at 11:25 pm | Permalink


  5. General Demetrious
    Posted January 14, 2015 at 2:50 am | Permalink

    I’d just like to address a couple of points made by former Ypsilanti City Planner Murphy, and former Ypsilanti Mayor Schreiber.

    Regarding affordability in Ypsilanti, the report clearly states the risk of the current course of action:

    “Ypsilanti will become more distressed and thus more affordable, especially to at-risk households. The reasons include unstable and falling property values and the impacts of disproportionate concentrations of struggling families (crime, lower levels of property maintenance, fiscal stress).”

    So Mr. Murphy is correct regarding the Water Street Flats rental price point, but misses the overall picture. Affordable is not a good thing for us. We are affordable in a bad way. We are affordable in a ghetto way. Ypsilanti’s median income is already too low, and the whole city is in economic distress due to the high level of low income families that we are already hosting, especially in relation to Ann Arbor.

    In other words you get what you target for. Both Mr. Murphy and Mr. Schreiber are essentially arguing to stay the course, which is the opposite of what the report recommends.

    Should Water Street be built? According to the report, absolutely not, for it perpetuates the low income, high crime issues we already face. Both gentlemen need to be reminded that Water Street Flats is SUBSIDISED housing, with income caps and relatively high Section 8 voucher potential, thus attracting more sub-20K/year families. Like it or not, the report is saying we need fewer 20K/year families, and more 40 K/year families.

    Mark expressed really well my feelings about this city. It is a cool place to live. I have met many awesome people here. If I don’t take a midnight stroll down Armstrong drive, I’m pretty sure I will not be shot in the head here. This is a great Midwestern college town. The only thing keeping out the 40K/year families is leadership.

    P.S. Did you see the Mlive article on Lois Richardson? Yikes!

  6. Posted January 14, 2015 at 5:26 am | Permalink

    If anything, the discussions on this site over what to do with poor people has been fascinating.

    Without being snarky at all, it is clear that poor people have little say over what’s done to them. Those decisions are left to educated white people in both Ann Arbor and Ypsi. While I don’t believe that anyone consciously holds anti-poor attitudes, the result is the same.

    What interests me is the stunning lack of awareness of this very deep problem.

  7. EOS
    Posted January 14, 2015 at 6:02 am | Permalink

    If I were poor, I wouldn’t want to be poor in a rich community. If I were rich, I wouldn’t choose to live in a poor community. I don’t get it.

  8. John Galt
    Posted January 14, 2015 at 6:52 am | Permalink

    EOS is right. The poor want to be surrounded by other poor people. They don’t want good schools for their children. They don’t want well maintained parks. They don’the want well funded fire departments. They want to live in isolated pockets where they can all be lazy together, drinking beer and taking drugs.

  9. anonymous
    Posted January 14, 2015 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    Peter, what would you suggest we do?

  10. EOS
    Posted January 14, 2015 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    I was asking for someone to increase my awareness of this problem. Does anyone think it is difficult to be surrounded by a majority that have access to far more material things? Why would someone in Ypsi be concerned with the percentage of poor living in another community? If large numbers of poor are bad, then work on improving Ypsi and reduce those numbers. If you think it is morally right to provide for the less fortunate, then do something yourself, rather than suggesting someone else provide for them. How is it that you feel it necessary to tell Ann Arbor to incorporate some percentage of Ypsi’s low income families? Does one feel better, that they have done something to ammeliorate the “problem”, if they identify someone else’s community to resolve it? Isn’t it easier to provide support services if those needing those services are distributed in a smaller geographic region? That’s what I don’t get.

  11. Eel
    Posted January 14, 2015 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    It hasn’t been mentioned in any of the press coverage thus far, but I wonder if these downtown ambassadors will be handing out one-way bus tickets to Ypsilanti for those who don’t look as though they belong.

  12. Posted January 14, 2015 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    @General Demetrius: you can use a section 8 voucher in any rental unit in town (or, at least, you cannot legally be discriminated against for using a voucher to pay your rent) — I’m not sure why WSF in unique in your mind in that regard? Similarly, “subsidized” is not a useful distinction: all the mich ave lofts were “subsidized” with OPRA, the Cross Street Village senior housing in the old high school is “subsidized housing”, a Habitat home has been “subsidized”, anybody who claims the mortgage interest deduction on their taxes is living in “subsidized housing”. “Income-restricted” is a better way to slice it, though if you’re targeting “$40k families”, well, those folks are within the income restrictions for WSF.

    That doesn’t mean I disagree with your broader point — I agree that we need to target a broad range of incomes, within the city, within neighborhoods, and within individual developments. For example, we might get a project like WSF to incorporate a mix of income-restricted and market rate units in the development by giving them the land for free and paying for the infrastructure ourselves. As a “weak market” community, we’re in a position where the “market rate” housing units are the ones we have to subsidize the construction of. (Or, at least, that’s what I’ve gotten from my developer contacts — I’d be *thrilled* to have you prove me wrong by bringing in your developers to do it without subsidy.)

    [i] The only thing keeping out the 40K/year families is leadership.[/i]

    Honestly, I think the biggest barrier is the schools. No matter that our best offerings can compete with the best in other districts — the averages, and the perception those create, are a veto point for a lot of families who might otherwise choose to live here.

  13. kjc
    Posted January 14, 2015 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    “I don’t get it.”


    “How is it that you feel it necessary to tell Ann Arbor to incorporate some percentage of Ypsi’s low income families?”

    uh a lot of people who live in Ypsi once lived in ann arbor but moved out due to affordability issues. or they work in ann arbor but are priced out of the housing/rental market. so you’ve got it backwards. ypsi is accommodating ann arbor, not the other way around.

  14. Kim
    Posted January 14, 2015 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    I’d like to hear from our Mayor and City Council what they intend to do with this report. Will they take this opportunity to initiate a real dialogue?

  15. Dan Blakeney
    Posted January 14, 2015 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    I’m not reading this discussion as an advocacy to send Ypsilanti’s poor to Ann Arbor or anywhere else. I am reading it as a discussion of, among other topics, a challenge to the idea that Ypsilanti should serve as Ann Arbor’s “affordable housing” area.

  16. Meghan
    Posted January 14, 2015 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    I don’t want to be Ann Arbor. But the idea that some people have that it should be a town only for the affluent (and, incidentally, white) and Ypsi can manage all the pesky human services (like, you know, housing) Ann Arbor doesn’t want to is bullshit. It’s one of the biggest reasons I think we need a consolidated school district (besides the ridiculousness of having all the administration duplicated all over Washtenaw County).

  17. Aaron B.
    Posted January 14, 2015 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    I make a decent middle class income and when house hunting several years back I was priced out of Ann Arbor. That said, I am super glad I ended up in Ypsi and prefer living in Ypsi now that I have gotten to know the area. Ypsi is a great, diverse, community! But when house hunting many an A2 resident tried to scare me out of looking for houses in Ypsi and made it seem like it was on par with the worst areas of Detroit and I was sure to get shot or mugged if I moved there.

  18. jcp2
    Posted January 14, 2015 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    P.F. Chang’s in Ann Arbor is not downtown. It is located outside of Macy’s at Briarwood Mall. Although many might consider the food served there to be too “corporate”, it is one of the few restaurants in town that has good food allergy/sensitivity policies, including the ability to print out custom menus that address these issues. I’m neither a fan or hater of the place, but it is useful to me when my dining party includes members with these issues.

    I agree that schools are crucial to attracting families with the means to choose where to love. However, I’m not sure how a consolidated school district would result in any significant change at the local school level, as student performance is more dependent on the home environment than the school environment (2/3:1/3 last time I checked). As there are structural problems with school funding at the state level, with health and retirement benefits occupying a greater proportion of school operating budgets on a yearly basis, all consolidation does is reduce the rate of decrease of per pupil in classroom funding. It will not increase classroom per pupil spending. Even within AAPS, there are significant discrepencies in school performance, which correlates with neighborhood desirability, which correlates with neighborhood real estate prices. As long as people can choose where they live, I don’t see this changing until people are willing to change who they are willing to live beside.

    As a general question, how many commenters have children in the local public school district? Obviously, private schools don’t count, but at least the tax money is paid into the general state education fund, and used elsewhere. One could argue that charters and magnets don’t count, and could be even worse, as they directly draw funding away from the local public school.

  19. Lynne
    Posted January 14, 2015 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    This is a familiar pattern. People don’t like paying for services used by other people if they can help it. So we have structured a tax system where important services get paid for through very localized property taxes, where affluent people can segregate themselves into enclaves with lots of services for relatively low tax rates. That is what has to end but that is exactly what isn’t going to end.

  20. Kristen Cuhran
    Posted January 14, 2015 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    As a person who owns a home in downtown Ypsilanti, works at a nonprofit in downtown Ann Arbor, and has a four-year-old who will be in school soon, I share the sentiments of Mark’s analysis. The study found that (not surprisingly) Washtenaw County is starkly divided not only its housing market but in income, education, race, and overall opportunity.The Office of Community & Economic Development (OCED) will be holding presentations and conversations in January and February to discuss the findings & work toward solutions. I appreciate the County doing this work and am hopeful for a more unified future to benefit ALL of us who live here. Info can be found here:

  21. Jean Henry
    Posted January 14, 2015 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    The Ambassador program is more diabolical than that. They also will be trained to move pan handlers off the streets via “humane intervention.” They also will literally be sanitizing A2 by scrubbing posts of flyers, alleys of graffiti and our city of its character. Because merchants paying $35 to $60 a square foot don’t want the homeless messing up their game.

    This pattern of cities gentrifying themselves into gross income inequality is a by and large a liberal phenomenon. We need to own up to that. No NeoCon is going to shell out 900k for a security force with a hospitality front.

    Also FYI the PORT program already has an understaffed team of three people who are on call to help people on the streets access public and non-profit assistance. The funds for “block by block” pan-handling interventions would be better used by the existing, established programs.

  22. Pocket Beaver
    Posted January 14, 2015 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    Murph’s right: it’s mostly the bad schools that are keeping people out of Ypsi. We have some friends that really wanted to move to Ypsi but ended up in Pittsfield Twp primarily for that reason. If the people in Ypsi who can afford to send their kids elsewhere continue to do so, it seems like the poor public school system will be a depressingly self-perpetuating problem.

  23. Dan
    Posted January 14, 2015 at 11:33 am | Permalink


    Are you suggesting that panhandling and graffiti are things that a city should embrace?

  24. maryd
    Posted January 14, 2015 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    Lynne says it most clearly, it is built into our tax and funding systems.

  25. kjc
    Posted January 14, 2015 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    could you start a separate thread somewhere else, Dan, on the the evils of panhandling and graffiti so that this one doesn’t get hijacked?

  26. Alex Hamlin
    Posted January 14, 2015 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    Great article Mark. I’d really like to see Ypsi do something with this study as well to make it more attractive to working college educated families. I loved living there and miss the community but once we had kids, our time there was limited. We have a kid who needed speech intervention and Lincoln failed us miserably. Plus we never were going to send our kids to some of the worse performing high schools in the state. The charter schools are only making things worse. All the families that we knew in our old neighborhood that had the means, have left as well.

  27. General Demitrious
    Posted January 14, 2015 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    The school performance is also a consequence of the low income in our area. Holmes Elementary is a 0th percentile school, the worst of the worst. Is it because of the teachers, or the funding? No. The parent does not even send the child to school.

    Crime is by far the biggest issue. Ypsi is more dangerous by any measure than any other place in the county.

  28. Posted January 14, 2015 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    I agree with Jean that the funds would be better used to support the excellent work PORT is already doing.

    In addition, I am excited to see our community conversations moving forward re: inequality and housing.

  29. Christina
    Posted January 14, 2015 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    I am a parent that had children in Willow Run Schools. We left the district and I swore I was never coming back. Well I’m back since the consolidation and I must say I am very happy so far with the district. We may not have all the bells and whistles like Ann Arbor schools, but the teachers and staff are excellent. They were always excellent and we originally left for different reasons.

    I would encourage parents who left the district or those moving to the city or township to give the district a chance.

  30. Scott T.
    Posted January 14, 2015 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    Maybe we should just merge Ypsi, the portions of Ypsi & Pittsfield Townships north of 94 and Ann Arbor into a single city, with a single school district…

  31. Mr. X
    Posted January 14, 2015 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    Annarbour: Opening the door for the rich. Showing the door to the poor.

  32. Dan
    Posted January 14, 2015 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    hi kjc, I see you are still your old miserable self.

    Hey, can you read the comments? And maybe accuse Mark and/or jean of hijacking the thread, instead of me? Since, you know, they are the ones that brought up the ambassadors and their duties of scrubbing the city of panhandlers and graffiti.

  33. XXX
    Posted January 14, 2015 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    Things are already turning around in Ypsi. We now have a millionaire.

  34. Chuck Warpehoski
    Posted January 14, 2015 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    as in Ann Arbor elected official, what I found most important about this report was how it shows the scale of affordability need in our city. we have been working with the Housing Commission, Avalon housing, and others to try to expand affordable housing and to rehab existing affordable units, but our existing strategies won’t get us to the 3000 units at this report says we need. I think the emphasis on zoning and other affordability strategies is vital to help us get to the scale we need. Ending 1020 even under beds here and there isn’t going to solve the problem.

    In Ann Arbor is defense come oh I see many of us trying to work to address the issue of housing affordability. We’re here marking money from the sale of city on properties towards affordable housing, we’re dedicating funds ready da to affordable housing, and we’re spending and give him money to renovate our existing Housing Commission stock. It hasn’t been enough to address the affordability gap that we have in our city for certain, but I do believe it has been a faith effort.

  35. Demetrius
    Posted January 14, 2015 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    I read this MLive story (and all the comments), and — in addition to making me very depressed — it really reinforced two thoughts I’ve had a lot lately.

    1.) The MLive “comments” section is mostly a vile sewer… populated by angry, smug, ill-informed, racist/class-ists who delight in the misfortune of others… and who literally *burn* with contempt for anyone whose life or circumstances are somehow different from theirs.

    2.) Most of the non-Ypsi people who comment on MLive clearly haven’t been east of Carpenter Road since about 1997.

  36. Maria Sheler Edwards
    Posted January 14, 2015 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    On the subject of school consolidation, it’s a question of funding policies at the state level. As long as A2 is a “hold harmless” district, which means that they have the unique ability to supplement their own per-pupil funding (currently an additional $2k per pupil more than anyone else in the county), the playing field will not be level. An extra $2k per student goes a long way towards being able to pay higher teacher and staff salaries, improve facilities, buy textbooks and school supplies, etc – all the things we all want for our districts.

    But as far as whether enough voters in A2 would consider extending their “hold harmless” status to include other districts like Ypsi, well, we all saw what happened in November with Whitmore Lake. It seems unlikely.

    Another issue that I think lies at the feet of our Governor and legislators is the fact that, while the population of MI is declining (my oldest son and his girlfriend from Southfield graduated from public universities in MI and now live in Brooklyn, NY), the state refuses to limit the growth of new charter schools. Maybe you could argue philosophically that charters are an OK idea, but not when school revenue is tied to school enrollment. In other words, any student gain in a charter means a commensurate loss of funding to a traditional public school district. Again, the playing field is not level – and getting more and more tilted.

    So our challenge in Ypsi is to work within the current economic climate to continue to provide a safe and welcoming environment for every single child where they can flourish academically, physically, socially, and emotionally. It’s not only our charge as a public school, it’s our moral obligation as citizens. On a personal note, I grew up in a blue-collar family where no one went to college, and I went to a public school where I qualified for “free and reduced lunch.” It was at school that I encountered other students from different backgrounds and economic situations.

    I remember vividly the day in 6th grade that my best friend told me (very matter-of-factly) that she was going to college. And, knowing that I was as competent a student as she was, I made the decision that day that I too would go to college – a decision that has immeasurably changed my life, and the lives of my children. This is what is at risk when people of means cloister themselves into their own public schools. Because I went to a public school that was economically diverse, I was put in an environment where I was able to imagine a different trajectory for myself. That’s why I am so passionate about public education.

  37. kjc
    Posted January 14, 2015 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    glad to see ann arbor city council members getting some perspective and devoting themselves to more pressing concerns than “smoking at the bus stop”.

  38. A.M.
    Posted January 14, 2015 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    The “I got mine so fuck you” comments from the AA article:

    – “The city council owes its allegiance to city residents, not poor people who want to live here. It is wrong for them to spend consulting fees and subsidies for people who don’t live here. A2 and Ypsi are one big economic region. If there is good transportation between the two, all these economic issues are taken care of. And the AAPS won’t be ruined”

    – “I still don’t understand the problem. People with less money live in Ypsi and commute to Ann Arbor. There is no shortage of low income housing in Ypsi. ”

    – “not sure anyone is against helping out but at some point you have to work for something better and not just expect to get what others have worked their whole life for. Many here didnt start wealthly or living in A2 but aspired to that and reached that goal. Silly to say a bartender deserves the same.”

    – “Move to Detroit. Buy a 1 K fixer upper and celebrate all the diversity you want.”

  39. Posted January 14, 2015 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

    Wish I could say with confidence that those commenters are not representative of the Ann Arbor population in general. I am not so sure these days, especially in the wake of that group of independents who ran a no campaign on the AATA Millage.

    I’m really thankful for spaces like this where even perspectives like those of John Galt and EOS don’t dominate the discussion. I sometimes take breaks from Mlive comments just to read the one-word comments by Peter Larson. Thanks everyone!

  40. Demetrius
    Posted January 14, 2015 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

    @ A.M.


    So basically, what these people are saying is that they’re fine with having “those people” commute into Ann Arbor every day to serve them overpriced coffee drinks; wait on them and clean up after them in fancy Main Street residents; clean their spacious, modern homes (and lawns); change the oil in their Land Rovers, etc. … as long as they aren’t forced to otherwise look at them, or be near them, or think about them, or pay a few extra bucks for public transit to help them get into/out of town, or … above all else … CERTAINLY not have their precious snowflakes share a classroom with other children who come from such common, ordinary, working-class backgrounds.

    I mean, for God’s sake, many of their parents probably don’t even have a Masters Degree!

  41. Demetrius
    Posted January 14, 2015 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

    @ Greg

    I’m pretty sure “John Galt” is engaging in satire … not so sure about “EOS.” ;-)

  42. CED
    Posted January 14, 2015 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

    @ Maria: Really important observations in your comment, thank you. Public education is a common good now in serious peril. And the playing field is not at all level with AAPS being able to provide so much more per-pupil.

    @ Greg & Demetrius: I’m with you, Demetrius. I take John Galt to be the resident Stephen Colbert wannabe. ;) EOS, probably not so much.

  43. Posted January 14, 2015 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

    Cool, thanks for the clarification. I won’t be quite as sad when I read his comments anymore.

  44. Jcp2
    Posted January 14, 2015 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

    I’m going to assume that General Demetrious and Demetrius are also separate commentators?

  45. Dan
    Posted January 14, 2015 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

    Isn’t satire supposed to be clever and/or funny?

  46. Green
    Posted January 14, 2015 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

    John Galt is Mark, as are several of the other regular identities here.

  47. CED
    Posted January 14, 2015 at 11:16 pm | Permalink

    @ Dan: Whoosh. Although it would be pretty funny if you were one of Mark’s sock puppets, too.

  48. General Demitrious
    Posted January 14, 2015 at 11:16 pm | Permalink

    Yes, I am me, and plain Demetrius is someone else.

  49. mariah
    Posted January 14, 2015 at 11:26 pm | Permalink

    As for affordable housing, I do agree that efforts need to be more cooperative between and among communities. However, I’m pretty skeptical about school consolidation too, so although in theory, I think it could be really helpful and a nice equalizer to have consolidated schools, it also seems that lots of good teachers and institutional knowledge gets lost in any consolidation shuffles, so it would have to be done pretty carefully. Still, access to quality education is helpful for everyone in a whole region.

    I will say that many of the “independents” who were anti-AATA included quite a few “usual suspects” who belong to a boomer LINO crowd who seem to talk a lot about efficiency and serving as “advocates,” but who frankly have come across as “I’ve got mine”-ers. And I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some Dahlmann money in that anti-AATA campaign too, considering where I saw signs placed and their history with wanting to keep their own taxes low and competition out of downtown.

    Jean H pretty much said exactly what I wanted to say about the ambassador program. It’s private policing/mall-cop and anti-panhandling disguised as “friendly outreach.” Jean didn’t say it this way, but I will — it’s total bullshit.

    As for wayfinding – there are all of those few-years old signs around downtown, many Republic parking garages have plexi holders with paper maps, and I give at least a handful of folks walking around directions every week (let alone the directions and info I provide while at my job). Hey! I even open doors FOR FREE too. Just because that’s a nice human thing to do. Amazing, huh?

  50. EOS
    Posted January 15, 2015 at 7:31 am | Permalink

    I’ve always thought John Galt was Brackache.

  51. EOS
    Posted January 15, 2015 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    Might as well consolidate all the public schools in the county. All the parents who care have already found better alternatives for their kids.

  52. Jean Henry
    Posted January 15, 2015 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    Here’s the thing for me. What I’m not sure the city understands is that the people who tend bar, work counters and wait tables often do those things because they have other interests. They are the creative and entrepreneurial class. The one’s who will make music, open shops, run public events, volunteer. They put down roots in a city not because of their job but because they love being where they are– for whatever reason. Add to them, the nurses, teachers, librarians– all underpaid professionals in service positions. These people lend a considerable amount of character and community resilience to any city. To drain A2 of these people and filter them off to Ypsi will benefit Ypsi at deficit to A2. And we may deserve that. 30% poverty rate has been Ypsi’s story for 30 years plus. That’s not new. What is new is the movement of the working class away from A2. Ann Arbor needs both direct support: section 8 housing and affordable housing. Lots of it. We have no idea what we are losing.

  53. Dan
    Posted January 15, 2015 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    I’ve always assumed at least one of the John Gault/Galts here were Mark. And I’m not the only one that has commented on how tired, predictable, and unfunny the shtick is.

  54. John Galt
    Posted January 15, 2015 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    Why all the hostility? I think, if you took the time to get to know me, you’d really like me. Thayrone and I are having some people over this weekend for a little dinner party. If you’d like to join us, just let me know your address and I’ll send you an invitation, Dan.

  55. Dan
    Posted January 15, 2015 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    no thanks.

    But back to the affordable housing issue. I get that this post was probably more about the perceived slap in the face to Ypsi from AA, but realistically, Ypsi keeps providing subsidized housing and attracting the poor and lower middle class. If Ypsi doesnt want to remain the de facto affordable housing option for Washtenaw County, then they should absolutely stop the Water Street Flats proposal.

    The former Mayor’s response is ridiculous. Just because the median income in Ypsi is so low that these “affordable” rates are close to market rate, is not justification for perpetuating a low median income. The city needs to attract people in the $50k+ income range to balance out low incomes already in place. As others pointed out, schools are a barrier to attracting families, but more concentrated poverty will certainly not help

  56. Jean Henry
    Posted January 15, 2015 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    RE Dan: Jean, Are you suggesting that panhandling and graffiti are things that a city should embrace?
    I’m suggesting that panhandling and graffiti are not best addressed by outside agents. As a store owner, I was able to manage both without police or ‘ambassador’ assistance, because I TENDED my own store. These are simply not the problems of people who work their own businesses. At least they are not problems that cost them business. They are the problems of people who run their businesses remotely. These are the businesses the DDA supports.

    My ‘solutions’:
    1) PORT already runs a team of three people who help people on the streets access social services. They are trained social workers. The DDA should fund more.
    2) Provide more free walls for graffiti (DDA already does this on train underpasses etc) Use programs like the Neutral Zone to gather street artists together to write up a collective code of conduct and collectively take responsibility for cleaning up writing by those who violate it. (There are already existing codes within the graffiti world to stay away from biz fronts, use back of signs etc. It’s art. We pay for worse public art around town. You may not like it tough luck. It’s a form of expression. Je suis Charlie and all that.
    3)Work within a paradigm that acknowledges that there is no way to rid ourselves of panhandlers and graffiti without addressing the social ills that create those phenomenon. Our will to see them gone is simply denial otherwise. I want to live in a city that directly addresses it’s problems and uses its privilege as a tool to try to make something new a greta and truly progressive.
    4)The DDA needs to make a commitment to actively support independent retail including rent support and business loans for the same. Because independent retailers who tend their own shops take care of their own places and make places that reflect and amplify the character of their city.

  57. Jean Henry
    Posted January 15, 2015 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    I forgot to add: Work to make a town affordable to the social workers, nurses, waitresses and teachers who know pan-handlers and graffiti artists personally and will, over the course of everyday life, help these people out and help them feel engaged and welcome and served by their community.

  58. Jeremy Peters
    Posted January 15, 2015 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    As someone who has seen this presentation for the 5th time now, my take away is that this needs to be worked on regionally. Parochialism will kill any attempt to stabilize or fix some of the trends that were presented. I’ve mentioned each time that the urban county can be a huge help in shepherding these multi-jurisdictional discussions. In short, a better balance of households at all income levels and levels of education are key to our mutual long-term health as a region. Minneapolis and St. Paul realized a long time ago that the two areas were inextricably tied, and have worked very, very hard to work together, while still maintaining the individual lifestyles and identity of each separate city. I don’t think it is impossible for our region (and to be clear, I’ve lived in both Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti Township in my 17 years here) to be healthy otherwise.

    Specifically, just as much as A2 needs to add affordable supply to ensure that the wage and rental price gap doesn’t increase further, the eastern side of the county needs strategic investment to help create demand from higher income households, integrated throughout all of the neighborhood areas. There are many ways both can be done, and we need to look at all of the possibilities in order to do this right.

  59. Posted January 17, 2015 at 3:39 am | Permalink

    I am so happy that ODED commissioned this report and that this issue is finally being addressed officially. I live in Ypsi and most of my friends here have to work in Ann Arbor because that’s where there are more jobs and higher paying jobs. These jobs pay enough to afford to live in Ypsi, however, not Ann ARbor.

    I am saddened that so many people have to waste time and money and risk their lives commuting to and from work every day. 45 mins each way on a bus. Gas and insurance and 20 minutes in a vehicle. Danger driving on congested, snow/ice covered roads. Yikes. This is no way of life! Most of my friends would prefer to WALK to work, and my friends that live and work in Ypsi do just that.

    Basically, if Ann Arbor would like people to prepare their food, sell them their clothes, and stock the toilet paper that wipes their asses, they should pay them enough to live there. Or make housing costs lower so that they can afford to live there. However, I don’t want my friends to move away from Ypsi to A2 (and I don’t think they want to). They just want to make enough money to pay their costs of living, while they make their music and art in their free time, which is their true passion, as well as activism and thoughts of sustainability and equality for all.

    What we could focus on in Ypsi to help this problem is creating more jobs that pay well enough for someone to afford to live. $8 an hour will barely give you enough money to share an apartment in Ypsi, let alone get your own place. A one bedroom here is $500 to $700 per month, and there may be some utility costs on top of that. Why are housing costs much higher than minimum wage pays? This is a disparity that undermines a self-sufficient way of life across the globe.

    Thanks for covering this Mark! You do great humanitarian work. You should get the Ypsi Peace Prize (of much higher esteem than the Nobel Peace Prize, of course). :-)

  60. Posted January 17, 2015 at 3:39 am | Permalink

    OCED, not ODED. typo

  61. Demetrius
    Posted January 17, 2015 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    @ Create Harmony

    “What we could focus on in Ypsi to help this problem is creating more jobs that pay well enough for someone to afford to live.”

    I agree with you … and I think the best way to do that is to focus on supporting our local, independent businesses — including locally-made (sourced) food, and other products — to create more local jobs, and keep more of our money circulating here in our own community.

    The less we depend on multinational corporations (and their energy-intensive, global supply chains), the less we support exploitation of our fellow humans and the natural world … and the less of our hard-earned money ends up in the hands of the 1%.

  62. Posted January 17, 2015 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    I fail to understand why poor people coming to Ypsilanti is a bad thing.

    There are all kinds of poor people out there,. As Jean Henry correctly says, many of them, particularly in this area are creative people doing interesting things.

    As for minorities, which seems to be the implication when people talk about “the poor,” let them come. They are people, too and if they’ve made the commitment to stay in the Ypsi-Ann Arbor area, then they are here for the long haul (i.e. have jobs in the area) and that’s what a community needs, poor or not.

    My personal opinion is that shifting Ann Arbor’s poor to Ypsi is a net gain for Ypsilanti. I don’t understand the controversy. The cynic in me says that there are people out there who just want a whiter Ypsi. I hope that isn’t true.

  63. shepard145
    Posted January 17, 2015 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

    While certainly a cardboard cut-out of a liberal who would make Castro proud, Mark writes more out of ignorance then insight.

    This issue is another bastardization of the civil rights movement by fools talking to morons. His tirade contains some obvious lies, such as that “the most successful communities keep a few buildings of the working poor around for their use and amusement.” While such bs may make MSU social worker students moist with thoughts of government assigning housing to filthy masses, it bears no resemblance to reality in the real world.

    The most obvious Grubber is his contention that society’s goal is not equality of opportunity, but equality of outcome – the great lie that kick-starts peasant revolutions before devolving into universal misery. Those who promote such nonsense can be found among Harvard coffee shop communalists and obamacare supporters – Grubber’s “the great stupid voters” among us.

    Lets also wink at how Mark glosses over Ann Arbor residents voting to tax THEMSELVES to provide more of THEIR MONEY to THEIR SCHOOLS in often vein hopes THEIR CHILDREN will receive a better education.The fact that communities populated by legions of the NEVER WORKING fail to pay taxes so live with those results seems lost to him other then to blab about scabbing on to Ann Arbor.

    Most amusing of all is his complete omission of CRIME and the fact that many of Ann Arbor’s most vicious, disgusting and violent crimes are delivered via Ypsilanti residents finding their way into the City.

  64. Posted January 17, 2015 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    What’s a “vein hope?”

  65. Violet Bluebirds
    Posted January 17, 2015 at 11:01 pm | Permalink

    My husband and I have lived in Ypsilanti for over twenty years combined. We have two children. We’re college educated. We listen to NPR. Our kids play with open ended toys and our house is filled with books. We’re also poor.

    My husband makes 25K a year before taxes at a full time job. We’re on food stamps. We have secondary Medicaid to help cover health care expenses for our special needs son. We are on WIC. I am a homemaker.

    Why don’t I work outside the home? The cost of day care is prohibitive: it’s actually less expensive to provide my kid’s own child care than it is to have a job and send our youngest to a day care center. My older son has special needs that require my active involvement in his education and therapies at this stage.

    We’re lucky because a very generous relative allowed us to live in one of their rental properties for a very reduced price. We couldn’t this Ypsilanti neighborhood otherwise. I drive a nice mini van because my mother gave it to us.

    Sure, I guess we could live the poor enclave of Ypsi with the other lazy drunks who do not care about their kids. Except that we’re not lazy, we don’t drink, and we’re very good parents. We pay taxes. We vote in local elections. We’re citizens of Ypsilanti. No one is “hosting” us. We belong here just as much as someone making 100 K a year.

  66. Andrew
    Posted January 18, 2015 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

    My wife and I moved to Ypsilanti in 2003 from Portland, OR. We initially looked at houses in Ann Arbor. My sister lived there since the 80s. I had visited her many times, but I was shocked how gentrified Ann Arbor had become since my last visit. This was at the peak of Pfizer’s dominance. We wanted a neighborhood that was walkable while providing interesting things to do. We were shocked at the dumps being offered there for $250K. Common threads were: no basement, no garage, major repairs, next to half-way houses, rehab clinics and busy roads. We are both teachers in Washtenaw county. We decided to look in Ypsi. We were pleasantly surprised and purchased a home for $150K. We have done $100K in improvements and we are making it our long-term dream home. Our kids attend Ann Arbor schools and we are happy with the hybrid of the two communities. We live blocks from the Corner Brewery, Sidetrack, etc. We have awesome neighbors. The kids next door take care of the place when we are gone. We like the parks that are blocks away. The kids ride bike all over the neighborhood. I love the fen and natural areas down the glacial side of Riverside Cemetery. I have discovered many great private fishing holes on the Huron. We are really happy with the bohemian scene that Ann Arbor seemingly pushed out long ago. We will be Ypsi bums until the end.

9 Trackbacks

  1. […] few days ago, in a post about the increasing number of economic refugees making their way from Ann Arbor to Ypsilanti, I noted a new program being considered by the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority (DDA) that […]

  2. […] View full sizeGraphic from the Washtenaw County affordable housing needs assessment report released in January 2015.courtesy of Washtenaw County  Local politics • The Mark Maynard blog recently featured a lengthy post on why Ann Arbor can’t – and shouldn’t – just ship its poor to Ypsilanti. […]

  3. […] few days ago, I posted something here about the findings of a study on affordable housing commissioned by Washtenaw County. The published report, as you may recall, didn’t paint a very pretty picture. Our […]

  4. […] “You are increasingly becoming a county with an area of concentrated wealth and an area of the opposi…,” one of the consultants told the members of Ann Arbor’s Planning Commission. And this “balance problem” between Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, he added, is the most troublesome issue the County faces. And he’s right. It’s simply not tenable for one community to be designated as the de facto home of a region’s poor. Without tax revenues to provide things like police and fire services, good schools and working streetlights, cities collapse. And it’s for this reason that more and more of us are calling for regional solutions that seek to better balance our individual communities… That means more affordable housing in Ann Arbor, and policies that encourage more economically well-off individuals and families to consider Ypsilanti. Without greater balance, and more a more regional perspective with regard to things like public education, transportation and affordable housing, Ypsilanti will fail, and our failure will reverberate through the entire region. So I’d suggest that it’s time for those of us in Ann Arbor to look beyond the walls of our gated communities, and give some serious thought as to how the actions of one city impact another. […]

  5. […] few few weeks ago, I posted something here about the findings of a study on affordable housing commissioned by Washtenaw County. The published report, as you may recall, didn’t paint a very pretty picture. Our […]

  6. […] JO: We’re especially focused on rolling out our most recent report, which I’ve seen covered in your blog! The Affordable Housing & Economic Equity Analysis report looks at housing affordability and […]

  7. By Ann Arbor declares itself to be “Compassionate” on September 10, 2015 at 7:03 am

    […] community, I’d suggest that they start by seriously considering the recommendations of the recent Affordable Housing Needs Assessment commissioned by Washtenaw County, which called on them to both aggressively construct low income housing, in order to decrease the […]

  8. […] brought up the idea of merging the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti school districts. This, he said, echoing the findings of the County’s recently issued report on affordable housing and economic equity, would both help to stabilize Ypsilanti’s economy and go a long way toward reversing the […]

  9. […] MARK: 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 elected, in perhaps moving things in a more equitable direction. Specifically, I’m interested to know what you make of the fact, in spite our region recently being named the 8th most economically segregated region in the county, and the repeated warnings of the Washtenaw County Office of Community and Economic Development about inequality, Ann Arbor seems relativley uninterested in building affordable housing, instead apparently seeing it as Ypsilnati’s job to absorb its dispalced poor. […]

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