Ann Arbor voters could see a millage on their ballot this November to increase affordable housing. The ballot language, proposed by councilmembers Chip Smith and Elizabeth Nelson, will be reviewed at the city council meeting tonight.
A 2015 study reports that nearly 30% of households in Washtenaw County were having trouble with access to affordable housing. The study defines unaffordable housing as exceeding 30% of one’s income. According to the report, the number of families whose housing was considered unaffordable more than doubled from 2000 to 2012.
“Ann Arbor has become an amazingly unaffordable place,” says councilmember Chip Smith. “You can see that when you look at the fact that we don’t have a single firefighter who works for the Ann Arbor Fire Department who lives in the city of Ann Arbor. While there is some choice there, it says to me that we’re not a very affordable place to live for the working class.”
The proposed millage would generate more than $6 million per year for 20 years. This is designed to create about 3,000 units of affordable housing.
He says the consistency of the funding allows for flexibilities in creating affordable housing.
“The consistency of funding is critical, and we’ve tried so many different things, and nothing has created the number of units that we need, so this seems to be the most likely way to meaningfully affect change.”
Smith says there is a wide variety of people who need affordable housing, ranging from singles to families, which means there’s a need for a variety of affordable housing units.
“Instead of having to always develop on a clear site, on a green field or to redevelop a brown field site, we will have the opportunity to acquire units that go on the market that might meet our needs.”
The ballot language needs to be approved by city council tonight before going before voters in November. Smith says it’ll be good to have the millage on the ballot for the November election, since there will likely be a higher voter turnout.
“For items of considerable significance, we want these things on the ballot when the most people are going to be voting. We don’t want to bury a millage in a May or August election, where you’re lucky to get a 20% turnout. November is going to be a huge election: I’d be disappointed if Ann Arbor had a turnout of less than 65%.”