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Affordable Housing

by | Jun 17, 2018 | Michigan | 4 comments

To gain a better understanding of affordable housing in Michigan I started a search for it in my neighborhood. What I found surprised me. It may surprise you too.

Affordable Housing - Cedar Bend Trail-10

What do I know about affordable housing? I can tell you prior to writing this post, what I knew could fit on a fairly small Post It Note. When the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) offered to sponsor a post on Life In Michigan about it, my immediate response was, “You have got the wrong girl for this project. I write funny posts with pretty pictures.” They persisted. Looking back over our email exchange, I see where I mentioned this several times. Well, they are professionals and maybe it was time to step outside my comfort zone.

Affordable Housing - Urban Hike - Ann Arbor - 2014

I discussed writing this post with a colleague at work. She said, “Did you know I qualify for affordable housing?” I did not. I was shocked. How could the talented, successful professional with a master’s degree sitting in front of me qualify for affordable housing? The shocked look on my face prompted her to continue. “It is based on the median income for the community. If I didn’t have the sweet deal for the condo I’m renting, I could never afford to live in Ann Arbor.”

So what is affordable housing?

Concentrate recently published “The ABCs of affordability in Washtenaw County.” It is an excellent primer on the topic and if you want to really understand the nuts and bolts, head over there.

There is a simple definition of affordable housing: Housing that is affordable to people at all income levels. It enables young professionals and families to establish roots in our community. It allows retirees on a fixed income to keep their homes. It promotes diversity. Bottom line, it strengthens our economy.

Affordable Housing - Kate Peterson - Top Of The Park-39

Ann Arbor Housing Disparity

Yet there is a housing disparity in Ann Arbor, which according to a study by Niche.com is the #1 best city to live in the US. And people like my talented colleague struggle to find affordable housing in the #1 best place to live in America. That is not right. A 2014 Concentrate article spelled it out very clearly, “In fact, a full 31% of the workforce in Washtenaw County does not make enough to afford the average two-bedroom apartment here.”

Affordable Housing - Rolling Sculpture 2017-139

Is everyone in favor of affordable housing?

You would think so but as I was scrolling through posts on NextDoor, I stumbled upon a discussion about affordable housing. It provided another perspective. The discussion started with “I am supportive of affordable housing BUT not the kind that makes us a magnet for other areas (outside the county) folks. We need to take care of our own but can not afford to take care of the world.” The online conversation devolved into a nasty catfight and it was clear my neighbors are polarized on the affordable housing issue. I was shocked and horrified by some comments. These are my neighbors. OMG!

Is there affordable housing in my neighborhood?

A search on the Affordable Rental Housing Directory returned 11 properties in my zip code. Over half of these are within 2 miles of my home. The directory includes all the MSHDA, HUD, Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, and Rural Development financed developments in Michigan. I have to admit, I was a little surprised, given the nasty catfight I witnessed on NextDoor about affordable housing. I didn’t think I’d find any. During my next run, I looked for these addresses. And guess what, they fit right into my eclectic Northside neighborhood.

Affordable Housing - Cedar Bend Trail-20

My neighborhood, also known as Lower Town, is nestled in the crook of the Huron River. No two house are the same; most are older, a few are newer, a couple are in need of a little TLC. The Guy Beckley House, on Pontiac Trail, was a stop on the Underground Railroad. So we’ve got a bit of history. Downtown Ann Arbor is only a 30-minute walk.

Affordable Housing - Fall 2016-5

From my front yard, I can see two churches and a magnet school. There are community gardens, parks, and Leslie Science Center is a five-minute walk from my back door. The trails which zip through my neighborhood are one of my favorite features.

Affordable Housing - Ann Arbor Trails - Leslie -2015-1

I live here because it is diverse and the individuals are as eclectic as the houses, which may be why Ann Arbor is the #1 place to live in America. Just a thought.

Is affordable housing important?

“Across Michigan, there is a shortage of rental homes affordable and available to extremely low-income households (ELI), whose incomes are at or below the poverty guideline or 30% of their area median income (AMI). Many of these households are severely cost burdened, spending more than half of their income on housing. Severely cost burdened poor households are more likely than other renters to sacrifice other necessities like healthy food and healthcare to pay the rent and to experience unstable housing situations like evictions.” [From the National Low Income Housing Coalition]

Now that I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone and dug into the issue, I have a better understanding of affordable housing. I am empowered to jump into the next conversation be it on social media or around the water cooler. I encourage you to do the same.

Post sponsored by MSHDA.

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