Housing & Affordability
All of the things that make Ann Arbor such a wonderful place to live have also contributed to making housing unattainable for many in our community, particularly working families and those in the service industry, teachers, tradespeople, artists, and retirees.
Washtenaw County released the Housing Affordability and Economic Equity Analysis in 2015. This study illustrated, in very stark terms, the dearth of affordable housing in Ann Arbor as well as the connection between housing affordability and racial and economic equity.
(What’s important to take from that study is that salaries for high-wage jobs have continued to increase every year while take-home pay from lower-wage jobs has stagnated. Many who work in the retail and service industries -- and at the hospital in particular -- cannot afford the high cost of housing in Ann Arbor. In 2012, for instance, the median income from a minimum- or low-wage job was $23,655; the income required to rent a two-bedroom apartment alone was $34,960. Even without taking into account food, utilities, or any other necessities, 31% of fully employed members of our community would find themselves $11,300 short of being able to afford adequate housing.) Just looking at hourly wages and rent, many fully employed folks can’t afford housing in Ann Arbor (see footnote one for source).
City government cannot control either wages or rent, but what it can do is to help create housing. If we continue to do nothing, the problem will only get worse. We’ll see more and more working families priced out of Ann Arbor and a significant increase in traffic congestion as a much higher proportion of our workforce commutes in from outside the city. We have a straight-forward problem - we don't have enough housing.
The Housing Affordability and Equity Analysis identifies a need to create 3,137 units of workforce housing in Ann Arbor by 2025 to balance the regional housing equation. Since I’ve been on City Council, we’ve been able to create about 100 units of affordable housing. Proceeds from the sale of the Library Lot development rights will provide financing for approximately 100 more. It's not that we're just failing to create enough affordable units, we're not creating enough housing period. In the last seven years, we've created a total of just 1,586 new housing units (source: SEMCOG community profile) - which is less than the increase in UM student enrollment over the same period.
Clearly, we still have a long way to go. To achieve our housing affordability goals, I advocate for and have specifically been working to create zoning to increase density and allow for mixed-use development along our main AAATA routes - in particular in the South State Street/Eisenhower/Briarwood and the Washtenaw Ave. corridor areas to start. This allows for more compact development and reduces dependence on single-passenger car trips. These zoning changes will come before the Planning Commission in the spring of 2018, with a hope they can be adopted by council by early summer. This is a community priority and I will continue to lead the push for more housing here in the City.