Ypsilanti City Council hears presentation seeking to balance housing affordability and equity

Housing Affordability and Equity Assessment was discussed at Tuesday’s Ypsilanti City Council meeting.

Mary Jo Callan, director of the Washtenaw County Office of Community and Economic Development and Brett Leonard gave a presentation of an equity analysis conducted by the office.

Callan began by asking the council to listen for three requests, which she said are also being requested of Ann Arbor City Council, Pittsfield township board of trustees, Ypsilanti township board of trustees and Washtenaw county board of commissioners.

“We would like for you to, sometime in the near term, adopt the Housing Affordability and Equity Analysis that we are about to present to you,” she said. “We’d like you to commit to the advancement of the goals and framework with in this analysis.”

She also asked for support for identification and designation for regional work groups to work on what has been identified as a regional issue.

The analysis has many facets, according to Leonard, and was conducted by holding interviews with stakeholders by looking at lots of data and completing surveys of the population. Its purpose is to seek a greater balance in Washtenaw County’s housing market.

He said that housing in the county is relatively affordable but , on a more granular level, the market is broken up into two distinct markets: Ann Arbor, the City of Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township.

“In Ann Arbor we have all of the amenities that drive demand at a very high level – great architecture, street trees, beautiful … mostly beautiful concrete planters, great pedestrian experience and demand is incredibly large and that drives up prices. It drives up land costs. It drives up housing costs,” he said. “Just around the corner, great planters, street trees, beautiful architecture, wide side walks. All of the infrastructure is there but obviously, in Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township, that ratio is different and the land values and the housing market are functioning in a very different way.”

Leonard said one of the things that the analysis looked at was identifying who lived in households in these areas and the effect that level of education has on the housing market.

It was found that in and around Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township, more people had a high school education or less while the people in Ann Arbor and Pittsfield Township were higher.

He said that depending where a household is on the income spectrum determines affordability.

“Housing and Urban Development identifies that the preferred target is to spend no more than 30 percent of your household income toward housing costs,” Leonard said. “But particularly in the rental market across the urbanized area, over 50 percent of all renters pay more than 30 percent. They are housing-cost burdened – 30 percent spend over half of their income.”

The presentation lasted for about 30 minutes and there were several comments from council.

“When I read through the report, a lot of it said stuff we already knew,” Council member, Pete Murdoch, said. “One of the things that kind of concerns me with a lot of reports that we do is often it’s not taken into consideration. External forces we have no control over.”

He said that the market in Ypsilanti is in demand as more families buy and move into homes, but the most of the rental market is dominated by Eastern Michigan University.

“Clearly in the rental market there are subgroups, but when we talk about affordability,” Murdoch said. “Affordability is just a function of income. If you don’t have any income, then nothing’s affordable.”

There was no indication from council that the analysis would be adopted in the future.

For more information visit: www.cityofypsilanti.com.

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