Exploiting a loophole, Ypsilanti’s Cross Street Village transitions away from affordable senior housing just 15 years after receiving Low-Income Housing Tax Credits

As I understand it, tomorrow (Friday) at 9:30 AM, there’s going to be an open meeting at the Presbyterian church on North Washington Street, south of Cross, to discuss changes afoot at Cross Street Village, the senior housing development located in Ypsilanti’s old high school building at the intersection of Cross and North Washington. It would appear that the owners of the building, American Community Developers of Detroit, have either decided to significantly raise the rents themselves, or sold the 104-apartment development to another company that has announced that course of action, in spite of the fact that, when they purchased the property from the Ypsilanti school district some 20 years ago, they pledged to keep it low-income senior housing for a term of 99 years. Well, it would now seem as though the building’s owners are now trying to renege on that promise, taking advantage of a back-out clause in the agreement they’d signed with the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA), the entity through which they requested and received a Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC). As I don’t know the whole story, I’m reluctant to suggest that this is simply a money grab, and that the owners don’t care for the at-risk seniors that are already being put on the street, but it certainly looks that way.

Over the past week, I’ve heard several stories of people being forced out, and of rents rising by as much as $127 a month. I’ve also heard that they’ve already started moving in younger tenants, so it would appears as though the transition from senior housing is already well underway. With that said, though, our State Representative, Ronnie Peterson, has called for this public meeting tomorrow to discuss what, if anything, can still be done at this point. [I’m told that our Mayor, Amanda Edmonds, County Commissioner Ricky Jefferson, as well as several members of City Council will be in attendance as well.]

While I’ve yet to see the Regulatory Agreement that was signed with MSHDA, the sense I get, having now talked with a few people, is that it’s unlikely we’ll be able to hold them to their promise. As Ypsilanti Councilwoman Beth Bashert told me, “This is a national problem, not just with this situation. Some of these loopholes are being closed, but not enough.” As for those changes, according to former Ypsilanti City Planner Teresa Gillotti, MSHDA amended their LIHTC contracts around 2005, to better ensure that agreements concerning “affordability periods” are honored, but I think it’s safe to say that probably won’t really help us in this situation… As I see it, the only real leverage we probably have is the fact that American Community Developers is still applying for, and receiving, tax credits from MSHDA for there developments in the state, but I can’t see our current leadership threatening to blackball a developer for taking advantage of a loophole. If anything, I suspect, they’d applaud it. [Remember, this is the same administration that, shortly after coming to office, raised taxes on pensions, while, at the same time, slashing business taxes.]

At any rate, I just thought that you should know that this was happening. Elderly people in our community are being pushed out, and their apartments are being rented to those who can afford to pay considerably more… As I mentioned earlier, I haven’t had a great deal of time to look into this yet, but I’d be interested to know what people were told when the moved in, and whether or not prospective tenants and their families were made aware of this eventuality. Furthermore, I’d be interested to know why it looks as though this took us completely by surprise as a community. As others have noted, developers around the country have been taking advantage of these 15 year LIHTC back-out clauses for some time now, and I’d like to think that, knowing this, the folks at MSHDA, or our elected officials, could have done something to head this off, or at least prepare for the eventuality that this might be happening. Regardless, now that it’s happened, I’d like to think that, because of what we’re seeing take place at Cross Street Village, we might start thinking proactively about other developments in the region that could follow suit.

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14 Comments

  1. Anonymous
    Posted June 9, 2017 at 6:22 am | Permalink

    This sucks. I had always assumed that my parents would move to Ypsilanti and live here at some point.

  2. a note from steve pierce
    Posted June 9, 2017 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    According to Ypsi’s perennial mayoral candidate Steve Pierce, there’s affordable housing everywhere. All these displaced seniors have to do is pick themselves up by their bootstraps and start knocking on doors.

    http://imgur.com/a/8ZPXF

  3. Arika
    Posted June 9, 2017 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    What does Steve Pierce think is affordable means? There is a selection of housing that is affordable to some in Ypsilanti, true. It is also true that there is a lack of affordable housing to meet the need for it; for families and seniors surely, and for others as well most likely.

  4. Arika
    Posted June 9, 2017 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    I wonder if Housing Bureau for Seniors is aware of this. I’m going to call them- maybe they could provide some assistance to folks who need to support in finding new housing options

  5. Nicki Schoolmaster Smith
    Posted June 9, 2017 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    This is not right! My grandparent’s lived there and it was perfect for elderly fixed income folks. I am so disgusted.

  6. Lynne
    Posted June 9, 2017 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    Honestly, this makes me pretty sad. I was kind of/sort of thinking about trying to move into Cross Street Village when I was old enough to qualify if my dog is dead by then. I am not sure of the answer.

    How can the community pressure the landlord here if what they are doing is legal?

  7. Krystal Elliott
    Posted June 9, 2017 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    This is unfortunate, Cross Street Village is a really unique place for seniors with great amenities. I met a few residents and did a tour of the place when I worked for the Courier and they all seemed to love it there – especially the ones who actually went to school there!

    I will admit when I saw the units I was a bit jealous, considering my dumpy apartment around the corner BUT this is wrong.

  8. npr
    Posted June 9, 2017 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    I wonder if Steve Pierce is riffing on the 2015 report prepared for the county, which said that Ypsi has too much affordable housing and that Ann Arbor not enough. I would add that at this Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Mayor Edmonds explicitly stated that she disagreed with that report and that Ypsi DOES NOT have enough affordable housing.

    Here’s the report:
    http://www.ewashtenaw.org/government/departments/community-and-economic-development/plans-reports-data/housing-and-infrastructure/2015/washtenaw-county-affordability-and-economic-equity.pdf

  9. Eli
    Posted June 9, 2017 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

    I know very little about Mueller, but I’m thinking that if he can rid us of Trump, we should just make him President.

  10. General Demitrious
    Posted June 10, 2017 at 7:16 am | Permalink

    It is interesting that Mayor Edmonds has now explicitly stated that she “does not agree with” the Washtenaw Counties experts on the Section 8 housing issues in the county. Can someone else confirm that she said that? I would really like to make that more publicly known outside of planet Maynard.

  11. npr
    Posted June 10, 2017 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    all she said was she disagreed with the report because she believes that Ypsi does not have enough affordable housing. ‘Affordable housing’ is a vague term and it doesn’t mean just section 8. A lot of folks who know what they’re talking about disagree with the report, which was prepared by an out-of-state a few years back. It’s a helpful report, but flawed. If you want confirmation I invite you to sift through the audio of the meeting. Personally, I applaud the Mayor for her stance

  12. npr
    Posted June 10, 2017 at 7:28 am | Permalink

    ^an out-of-state firm

  13. Jean Henry
    Posted June 10, 2017 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    Build more housing of all kind at all price levels to meet demand and housing prices will not go up. There will always be a need for supported affordable housing too. But the way to more broadly keep rents and home prices affordable in Ypsi through gentrification is to build lots more housing. Don’t make the mistake Ann Arbor did and confuse ‘maintaining community character’ with managing growth v providing for a diversity of population.

    PS I know and trust your Mayor. She cares deeply about this issue. It’s important to recognize your friends and allies in this cause.

  14. Lynne
    Posted June 10, 2017 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    I am glad to hear our mayor understands that aspect of things.

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