My husband and I always wanted to own land out in the country, right from the beginning of our marriage, but we knew that was a long-term plan. When we decided to get serious about saving money, we moved from Ann Arbor (very expensive) to next-door Ypsilanti (much cheaper) and bought a small cape-cod house in a quiet neighborhood east of Eastern Michigan University. It was one of the best financial decisions we ever made, as it allowed us to save a substantial sum of money over the years (despite having to pay for Christian school tuition, home-school, or utilize National Heritage Academies over the years) and to realize our dream of owning a big chunk of land in an area with good schools.
Being able to move to a cheaper area, fix up a house, and sell it for a reasonable but not excessive profit is a good way for a just-starting-out couple who aren’t earning much money to build financial stability. The other benefit to having a cheap-rent town next to an expensive-rent town is that you allow the working poor to get a foot on the ladder, too. Eastern Michigan University is located in Ypsi and Washtenaw Community College, where I used to teach, is right on the border with Ann Arbor just a short bus ride down, so work and schooling opportunities exist for those who are struggling but trying.
That is why I think proposals like this one are foolish:
So, why isn’t Ypsilanti a good long-term solution for Ann Arbor’s affordable housing issues?
“It’s a logical question,” says Rob Krupicka, a Virginia-based consultant hired to study housing affordability in Washtenaw County.
“The challenge is that Ypsilanti is getting close to 30 percent poverty, which puts it in company with some cities that you really don’t want to be in company with,” Krupicka told Ann Arbor officials Monday night. “When you get close to 30 percent or more in poverty, your ability to recover from that becomes almost impossible.”
If low-income people continue to concentrate in Ypsilanti while Ann Arbor grows wealthier, the result is an unhealthy imbalance, essentially socioeconomic segregation, and the region’s affordable housing issues won’t be solved, Krupicka said during a special joint session of the Ann Arbor City Council and Planning Commission.
“If anything, you’re going to create kind of new challenges because your next-door neighbors aren’t going to be economically sustainable,” Krupicka said.
“You would essentially be creating kind of a constant cycle of poverty, which I know is not what anyone around this table wants.”
A new report from Krupicka’s firm, czb LLC, suggests the Ann Arbor area collectively needs to add 3,137 non-student affordable rental units over the next 20 years. That includes 350 in Pittsfield Township and 2,787 in Ann Arbor.
Additionally, the report suggests the Ypsilanti area must grow demand for market-rate units by 4,187 units over the next 20 years.
“They need help growing demand for their community so that they can be a better partner with you in that balance equation,” Krupicka told Ann Arbor officials.
I encourage you to click over and read the whole article right now a moment.
The problem with Ypsilanti is not poverty per se. The problem with Ypsilanti is an increasing rate of violence – and no, those two words are not one and the same. No one wants to talk about the fact that fifteen years ago, gang violence had been nearly eradicated from Ypsilanti but has begun resurging over the past few years. They can build low-income housing in A2 until the cows come home and it won’t do a darn thing to help the problem. If Ann Arbor wants to help Ypsilanti, both the white and black people there, working class and working poor, they could give Ypsi a hand with aggressively pursuing and eliminating gangs that are beginning to grow again and become increasingly violent. No one will choose to live in Ypsilanti if gang violence is an issue, and the working poor will flee to Ann Arbor if given low-income housing there, which will WORSEN, not improve, the problems with violence and poverty in Ypsilanti as dysfunction becomes even more concentrated.
But eliminate the gang violence with an aggressive policing campaign and the working poor, especially single mothers, will feel safe living in apartments there and taking the bus (AATA buses are pretty decent, thanks to subsidies by A2) to work at EMU and then hopping on the bus to take classes at WCC, which offers some really practical programs. And the just-starting-out folks with college degrees will buy houses there and fix them up so they can save money; as nice neighborhoods thrive, a larger tax base can grow so that poverty doesn’t become excessively concentrated.
The consultant’s recommendations will have the exact opposite effect from what he is saying they will have. The money that Ann Arborites will spend building low-income housing units could be better spent helping Ypsilanti combat gangs.