The following was originally published in my Mar 17, 2019 Newsletter in the “Additional Thoughts” section
Behind the scenes and outside of public meetings, affordable housing has been a huge topic of conversation among council and staff. Before and after my election, I had multiple meetings with Jennifer Hall, Executive Director of the Ann Arbor Housing Commission, to hear her take on options and strategies. In a recent meeting with Fire Chief Mike Kennedy and City Administrator Howard Lazarus, I was also alerted to the potential for affordable housing development at the soon-to-be-taken-offline fire station at Packard and Stadium.
Our Housing Commission actually has identified a list of ten publicly owned properties (including the fire station, the site at Industrial, and at North Main) that could be developed for affordable housing. I am new to council, so my expectation had been that the city would evaluate, prioritize, and carefully assess the pros/cons of this whole list of ten. Instead, CM Ackerman has highlighted just two of them (Industrial and N. Main).
It surprises me that we would not be looking at the whole list in a more comprehensive way, but I also realize that suggesting a step back for such an analysis would, at this point, probably prompt accusations of being obstructionist. (This is, unfortunately, where we are in the current political climate.) I agree that the two properties at Industrial and N. Main are well situated for residents of affordable housing to have easy access to city shopping, jobs, and services. Based on recent conversations with the City Administrator and our Fire Chief, I am happy to propose a third location (the old fire station) that would have similar advantages for residents of affordable housing.
I hope that a majority on council can muster support for all three properties, as I see all three locations as consistent with city goals for equity and sustainability. I hope, also, that City Council can get more information about the other seven properties identified by our Housing Commission. I look forward to lively debate at the council table about how our city can best support affordable housing options; I’m particularly interested in discussing the merits of retaining local control versus negotiating with private developers for subsidy.