Yesterday, Ypsilanti Township Clerk Karen Lovejoy Roe took it upon herself to send her thoughts on our proposed downtown low-income housing development, Water Street Flats, to members of both the Township Board of Trustees and our City Council. You can find her entire letter on Councilman Brian Robb’s website. For those of you who don’t want to invest the time to read it, though, here’s the gist of it… Roe is of the opinion that the project is a “terrible waste of taxpayer dollars,” which will ultimately just serve to further enrich an out-of-state millionaire who cares little for our community or the people who will be living in the 90-unit development. According to Roe, MSHDA-funded projects, such as this one, “provide great tax credits to investors (and) make a lot of money for a few people at the expense of the communities where they are located and the future residents of the projects that eventually are not maintained and must be demolished due to neglect and lack of maintenance.” And, with that, the floodgates opened, and it was open season for everyone within a 100 mile radius to drop their pants and begin shitting on the City.
A REPRESENTATIVE COMMENT FROM THE ANN ARBOR NEWS SITE:
It likely would have happened anyway, as the conditions were ripe for an onslaught of negativity, but it certainly didn’t help that Ann Arbor News, in addition to talking with Roe, also chose to interview Nicole Markovits, the Ypsilanti Township resident who just recently launched the Save Ypsilanti’s Water Street Facebook group. “I want our community to stand up and speak for ourselves and organize and be a community,” she said. “I’ve lived here my whole life and it’s gotten to the point where I’m not going to go to the store at the corner because I’m afraid. I have for years said Ypsi is going to crap and now I’m going to stop talking about it and start doing something about it.” And things just got worse from there, as the comments got increasingly nasty. Not only would this development spell the end of civilization as we know it, but, apparently, Ypsilanti was already descending into the abyss. More than one person commenting on the Ann Arbor News site actually suggested that we empower our police to begin conducting random pat downs on our citizens. And these, of course, were just the comments that weren’t censored by the Ann Arbor News. One can only imagine what was being redacted.
There were, however, a few thoughtful comments, one of which was left by Scott Straley, who, as you may recall, I interviewed last summer, shortly after he and his husband moved to Ypsi from New Jersey. Here’s what he had to say.
My husband and I purchased a home in Ypsilanti last year and we’re cautiously optimistic about the future of the community. We sincerely hope that this can be a place where we can grow our family. And, part of that is having a viable and vibrant downtown.
We do love the fact that Ypsilanti offers a wide variety of voices from many socio-economic backgrounds. That was one of the things that attracted us to the city over some of the other more monolithic options nearby. But, I hope our elected and appointed officials make decisions that are good for the whole of the community for the long-term.
HKP is clearly a company that is exploiting federal grants to provide fifty years of guaranteed income building substandard properties on the backs of naive or desperate communities.
If this was in another form with a more significant contribution to Ypsilanti that provided not only affordable housing but jobs and opportunity for its tenants, it would have my full support. In its current form, its toxic to our efforts to redevelop our downtown. And any politician that votes for it or supports it will be digging their own political grave….
As I’ve said before, I don’t envy our City leaders. Having failed to pass a city income tax, they desperately need to find a new source of revenue before the bills start coming due for the 38-acre parcel we assembled on Water Street. Failure to do so would most assuredly mean the assignment of an emergency financial manager who would, as we’ve seen elsewhere around the state, sell all of our assets, including property, without the slightest consideration as to what might be best for our community. As that’s the case, I can see why this development is appealing to members of City Council. It would bring in tax revenue, and, more importantly, it would start to bring infrastructure to Water Street, in the form of roads, water and sewer, making it easier to sell the remaining parcels. And, after 14 years of waiting to get development underway, I’m sure they’re concerned that, if they turn HKP away, it may be years before another suitor shows interest. Personally, I think the Water Street Flats project is uninspiring at best. And I don’t say that because I’m fearful of the poor. I just wanted something different for Water Street. I wanted good jobs. I wanted something inspiring. Instead, it looks as though we’re going to have a dollar store and a grim Section 8 housing development, both of which will make people in other states wealthy, while doing little to raise the economic tide here in Ypsilanti. As for low-income housing, I’m all for it. I just don’t like the idea of it being concentrated and segregated. Surely there are small, non-profit developers in the world who are creating communities where people of different income levels live side by side, right?
I’m exhausted. I need to sleep. Here, before I go, though, is one more thing. It’s a excerpt from Karen Lovejoy Roe’s letter, in which she suggests that we could do a lot more good in our community by spending our tax dollars to build Habitat for Humanity homes, and rehabilitating existing ones, than giving the money to a developer like HKP. Granted, it might not help us with Water Street, but I think it’s certainly and idea worth considering… not that we’d have it in our power to control how MSHDA allocates funds, even if we agreed.