On The Ground Ypsi panel on the future of Ypsilanti

For those of you who weren’t able to trudge across the frozen tundra to attend last night’s On The Ground Ypsi panel on the future of Ypsilanti, where former State Representative David Rutledge asked questions of Lynne Settles, Bryan Foley, Decky Alexander, and me, I thought that I’d share the video. Here’s hoping, if you take the time away from holiday shopping to watch it, you find something of value in it… or at least something of interest.

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  1. T.B.
    Posted December 16, 2017 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    I wasn’t going to watch until I saw what you had to say described as “unimaginative defeatism” on Facebook.

  2. Posted December 16, 2017 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

    I suspect what this person was referring to was the fact that I said growth was coming, like it or not, and that I wasn’t aware of other areas of the country where they’d successfully navigated growth without gentrification. For what it’s worth, I didn’t say that we shouldn’t try. I was just saying that I wasn’t aware of models. I did say, however, that I thought local ownership was important. And I suggested that we find ways to help local people to buy property, which might serve as a hedge against gentrification to some extent. I don’t know, however, that it would be enough. If the person who left the comment had constructive ideas, I’d love to hear them.

  3. Posted December 17, 2017 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    I really enjoyed the thoughtful discussion at the forum!

    Gentrification has been the subject of much concern among urban planning thinkers. I’m in the midst of reading Richard Florida’s book, The New Urban Crisis, which examines the dilemma of gentrification from many directions. It’s a dilemma because rising land value provides more city revenue for services, as well as pressure on long-time residents with limited finances. Florida provides a deep, probing examination of statistical and anecdotal evidence…BUT (as far as I’ve gotten) no solution.

  4. Posted December 17, 2017 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    Oops! It’s Larry, not Karry!!!

  5. Posted December 17, 2017 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    As I mentioned above, I think a lot comes down to property ownership, and increasing opportunities for local people to purchase property, either individually or communally. While I did say during the event that I’m not aware of cities that have successfully navigated gentrification, that doesn’t mean that I’m going to stop thinking about the problem, or looking for solutions. And, toward that end, I just saw an article posted by a friend this morning about a neighborhood in Boston that fought back against gentrification though the establishment of a land trust. Here’s a link: “How One Boston Neighborhood Stopped Gentrification In Its Tracks.”

    Also, I should mention that I know of someone here in Ypsi already thinking about the possibility of raising money to purchase homes with the intention of turning them into affordable co-op housing.

    I’m hopeful that our conversations can continue in this direction, focusing our energy on potential solutions, rather than on attacking one another.

  6. Posted December 17, 2017 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    From the article mentioned above:

    A community land trust (CLT) is a nonprofit organization governed by community members that stewards land for long-term public benefit. CLTs protect land from the pressures of the real estate market, as the land is never resold. It remains part of the commons. Under private ownership, land tends to go to the highest bidder and toward uses intended to generate the greatest market return. Cities have an incentive to build up the market value of land, as they rely so heavily on property taxes to fund schools and other services. That explains why too often high-end condos are preferred by developers and cities over affordable homes or urban farms…

  7. JM
    Posted December 17, 2017 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    Don’t worry, the commenter is just one of our local Facebook trolls who often responds via memes.

  8. Posted December 17, 2017 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    Oh, I’m not worried about it. There’s always going to be criticism. And I’m OK with it. If I wasn’t, I would have folded the blog 14 years ago. I just don’t know that “unimaginative defeatism” is a fair representation of my position. While I did say that I wasn’t aware of other communities that had successfully negotiated gentrification, I didn’t by any means suggest that we should give up. In fact, I believe I said that we had an advantage on other communities, as we can learn from their experiences, and still have some time. That time, however, is fast running out. Which is why these conversations are so important.

  9. stupid hick
    Posted December 17, 2017 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

    “increasing opportunities for local people to purchase property, either individually or communally”

    Either you have enough money to buy property, or you don’t. If you do have enough money, either you already live in Ypsi or you don’t. A collective trust might work if you have a lot of land that is publicly owned, say because of tax forclosure, that nobody will buy at any price, that the city might be convinced to give up to the right organization because the property is a liability, not an asset. That describes some parts of Detroit and Flint, but does it apply to Ypsi?

  10. Jean Henry
    Posted December 17, 2017 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

    I feel a need to point up here that the same people who were silent when you mentioned the inevitability of growth at the end also gave you credit for being right about the future of Ypsi in 2008 at the beginning of the session. It also seems to me that the task of maintaining diversity and inclusion in Ypsi while growing and become more prosperous (again, because Ypsi was once a relatively prosperous city, and diverse) is a task requiring more imaginative solutions than trying to gate out the wealthy or new industries. There are ways to move capital access to existing populations and focus on retention and economic well being for all residents. They require concerted effort. I hope you guys start working on implementing solutions v. just protest soon. Limiting growth is what created Ann Arbor’s exclusivity, not welcoming it. We also ignored the falling away of our supported and affordable housing stock at the same time. I hope Ypsi can take our lessons and do better for all its citizens.

  11. Jean Henry
    Posted December 17, 2017 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

    Also the current data suggests Ypsi city population is still smaller than it was in the 1990 census. That may change by 2020 but the city is far from at capacity for population, so there’s wiggle room to create more housing options at all income levels, with the more wealthy funding the less so. Ypsi rental housing costs are fueled by the broader regional market. Home ownership is still cheaper for those with some access to capital. I bought my home in a similar market in A2 decades ago and lived with reduced rent paying roommates for 2 decades, until I had a more conventional family. I think it would make sense for young people committed to staying to Buy housing collectively. Many Zingerman’s employees successfully purchased homes in Ypsi. It’s not impossible for people at pay levels way below the median. I would love to see a fund developed to help people in Ypsi buy homes. I would love to see more housing built in empty lots too. I don’t think the single family home or urban farms represent any kind of ideal that actually creates an inclusive community going forward. My friends with urban farms in Detroit, who were granted acces to their lots but not ownership, now face displacement from development if they are in near midtown or other desireable areas. No matter what ones intention for land use, private property rights aren’t going away any time soon. Any realistic solutions acknowledge that reality. Land trusts are one such solution. There are more, including cooperative ownership of properties etc. But ownership needs to be the goal to stabilize housing for existing populations. Housing may reasonably be a right, but we are a long way from realizing that ideal.
    I heard years ago the Harriet Street once was the historically black owned business district. (2nd hand info, so I’m open to correction) It was bulldozed in the 70’s for public housing and social service agencies. I don’t think that was a net positive for ypsi’s Black citizens. Bringing Harriet Street (or equivalent) back would be a great focus for Ypsi city planning and economic development moveing forward.

  12. BobbyJohn
    Posted December 18, 2017 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    The very high property tax rate makes it very difficult for those of moderate income to be able to own a home in Ypsi. Of course the conundrum is that if the high tax rate is lowered, how does the city fund itself? Having city government being better stewards of taxpayer’s money is a start, but may not be sufficient.

  13. kjc
    Posted December 19, 2017 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    thanks for posting. my first chance to really hear Lynne and Bryan.

  14. murph
    Posted December 19, 2017 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    As another case study, Belt Magazine published this article earlier today, Can You Have Redevelopment Without Gentrification? Some In The Walnut Hills Neighborhood Of Cincinnati Say Yes.

    On Community Land Trusts, Detroit-based Michigan Community Resources recently published a guide on the Michigan-specific legal aspects of creating and running CLTs.

    In Grand Rapids, non-profit developer ICCF just purchased 200 rental homes away from a Chicago private equity group; it sounds like the plan is to sell those homes affordably to the current tenants where possible, to prevent displacement.

    On the co-op side, NASCO, the North American Students of Cooperation, was based in A2 until recently. They offer technical assistance and have some financing available to groups of students looking to create student housing co-ops. When I’ve talked to them in the past, Ypsi has been a place they’d like to be involved, but they need local students to lead the work.

    Examples like these aren’t necessarily “finished” successes, but worth looking at. And Ypsi being relatively smaller and having relatively cheaper real estate prices than some of those cases, we wouldn’t necessarily need the $18m that ICCF’s Grand Rapids project, for example, is investing in acquisition and rehab.

  15. Anonymous
    Posted January 24, 2018 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    They’re back for another year.


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