Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

Where goes those 100 SROs?

11. February 2008 • Nancy Shore
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The recently scrapped plans for William Street Station has left many people wondering what is going to happen with the 100 units of affordable housing that were going to be built as part of that plan.

On Tuesday, the City of Ann Arbor Housing and Human Services Advisory Board will hold a public meeting on just this topic.

Here’s the text of a flyer I recently received:

Ann Arbor Housing and Human Services Advisory Board Public Meeting

As part of its 2008 work plan, and with the assistance of the Office of Community Development, the City of Ann Arbor Housing and Human Services Advisory Board (HHSAB) is charged with preparing a written recommendation to the City Council, on or before May 31, 2008, summarizing options and a recommendation for the development of 100 units of affordable housing for low-income residents, including supportive services for the residents of this housing. These units will replace 100 SRO units located at the former YMCA site.

The HHSAB requests public comment at a meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 12, 6 p.m. to address the following issues, and requests:

  • Whether the 100 units of affordable housing should be located on the site or elsewhere;
  • Whether the 100 units of affordable housing should be developed on one site or dispersed in a variety of locations;
  • Whether the 100 units of affordable housing should be located in the downtown area, outside the downtown area, or dispersed both inside and outside the downtown area;
  • Likely requirements and possible sources of funding for development of the 100 units of affordable housing, including provisions of social services for the housing residents;
  • Whether non-profit developers, for-profit developers, and social service providers in the community have sufficient capacity to develop and provide services for 100 units of affordable housing within the next four (4) years; and
  • Any other challenges or opportunities related to the development of 100 units of affordable housing for low-income residents.

The public is encouraged to participate and share its opinion.

The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. Feb. 12, in the lower level conference room at 200 North Main Street, Ann Arbor.

For additional information or questions, please contact Jennifer Hall by calling 734.622.9006.

  1. This is a real challenge. AU readers may understand that this is not just “affordable” housing but “supportive” housing (at least as originally envisioned). The idea is to provide housing for folks who have “timed out” at the shelter and who will require heavily subsidized rents and personal intervention/support for a long time. Many have physical or mental health problems, or drug abuse problems, or simply need some help finding jobs and getting on their feet.

    In a memo to City Council dated January 9, 2006, Jayne Miller noted “57% of the participants (note: former Y residents) need assistance in their daily living functions. On-site support services and case management are proposed to be provided through the Washtenaw County Health Organization, ... (at a monthly cost) of approximately $300 per participant.”

    Avalon Housing has done this sort of thing for years through an exquisite balance of grants, donations, and skilled administration. The question is, how will “the system” pay for this much more capacity?

       —Vivienne Armentrout    Feb. 12 '08 - 03:47AM    #
  2. I won’t be able to attend tomorrow, so here are a few thoughts.

    For those who don’t need daily assistance (approx. 40?), might there be an opportunity to find vacancies in existing apartment complexes by subsidizing their rent payments? Seems like a guaranteed year’s worth of rent, even if discounted somewhat, would be more attractive to a landlord than a risky or short term renter, especially in this economy. That could also be implemented immediately. (Actually, for all I know that’s already been done, but discussion has seemed to be about a single group.)

    As for determining the distribution of these residents into various locations, could it be done in groups of a size that a single support person could reasonably serve, with additional support (physical and mental health staff, etc.) rotating among or splitting up the multiple facilities? For example, if one on-site staff person can meet the daily needs of 20 residents, then there could be 5 sites. If it’s not that straightforward, then it probably means that just one facility should be built.

    Location(s) may depend on the desires of the residents. If multiple sites are possible, some might like to be near parks or services (e.g., grocery stores) that they could walk to, while others might prefer to be downtown.

       —Steve Bean    Feb. 12 '08 - 04:32AM    #
  3. I like your ideas, Steve! What we do not need is yet another attempt to force these folks to live in some kind of stigmatizing “complex”.

       —David Cahill    Feb. 12 '08 - 04:56AM    #
  4. Washtenaw County has appointed a task force, chaired by Bob Chapman of the United Bank, to explore ways of creating a permanent funding stream for supportive services. HOMES and CDBG (federal) money can be used to house people (e.g. Steve’s idea of subsidized rent – also known as the Section 8 program), but they will not pay for these services. Avalon has put together packages for their housing units, but the support services money is always a challenge. I think the units should be somewhat scattered, but also I think some residents should be downtown. Then perhaps the DDA Housing Fund could be used for services. Whatever works!

       —Leah Gunn    Feb. 12 '08 - 05:54AM    #
  5. I was sorry to see the developer could not close the deal on the old Y property after all the effort that was put into it. Where to go from here? All of the residents who used to live at the Y are living in A2 and they have much better living conditions and those who need supportive services, are getting them. Anyway, the urgency of housing them is not there so there is time to plan.

    I am happy to see the concerted effort the city is making and the partnership with the county. I guess I agree with Leah, some of the 100 units should be downtown or near downtown, none of them should be out of town but not having them clustered is a good idea. The Avalon model might be the best to follow, disperse the units in existing houses around town.

    Only some of the residents of the old Y were actually “very low income” others could have afforded more but choose to live there for awhile and some of the units were rented by the Vets Hospital for their outpatients to stay in.

       —LauraB    Feb. 12 '08 - 08:50AM    #
  6. Re: the old Y property

    During Council deliberations that preceded the decision back in November to yank the William Street Station project (by HDC LLC of Novi), CM Suarez complained that the City had not had the property assessed, and therefore could not be sure if the City’s selling price to HDC was appropriate.

    But given that the City’s rationale in acquiring the property was to preserve affordable housing units at that site, and given that William Street Station would have included affordable housing units, it was reasonable say, Look, we don’t really care what its market value is, as long as we get back what we paid; this was not a speculative real estate deal on the City’s part; and insisting on market price would undermine our goal of affordable housing at that location. Which was essentially how Fraser met Suarez’s objection.

    Now, however, in light of a possible consensus that providing affordable/supportive housing is not best done at that particular site, it seems to me that it becomes a fair, even pressing, question to ask, What is that property worth? Presumably it’s worth more than [what the City was willing to sell it for to the developer of William Street Station] + [$1M for demolition].

    It seems to me that the estimated market value of the property is a number worth knowing now, even if ultimately its value is exactly what somebody has the means and willingness to pay.

    So, does anybody know if the City has had an assessment done or is planning to have one done?

       —HD    Feb. 12 '08 - 08:52PM    #
  7. HD, I think you mean an appraisal.

    Another complicating factor is that it is a brownfield site. HDC had applied for brownfield credits.

    I don’t have any information but I would assume that if the city demolishes the building and removes the asbestos, its market value should be higher than if sold as is.

       —Vivienne Armentrout    Feb. 12 '08 - 09:04PM    #
  8. “HD, I think you mean an appraisal.”

    Yes. Sorry.

       —HD    Feb. 12 '08 - 09:05PM    #
  9. Since the DDA will soon tear the building down and use the site as a parking lot, I think the best question to ask is, what is the site worth as vacant land?

       —David Cahill    Feb. 12 '08 - 09:17PM    #