More affordable apartments, pantry under agreement with developer in Ypsilanti

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YPSILANTI, MI — More affordable apartments, a tenant governance board and space for a “free store” or food pantry will all be incorporated into a 308-unit housing development project in Ypsilanti, if an agreement is reached between residents and the developer is moving forward.

The project at 845 and 945 West Clark Road near Eastern Michigan University on the city’s northern limits is the first to reach this stage under new city rules implemented in 2018 intended to give citizens more participation in major developments with public support.

Over the past three months, a committee of residents has met with California real estate developer Lincoln Avenue Capital to develop a draft Community Benefits Agreement, a binding contract outlining what the project will bring to the city in return for millions of dollars. tax breaks.

On Tuesday, May 24, city leaders — who will ultimately be tasked with accepting, rejecting or modifying the proposed deal — got their first glimpse of what’s inside.

Among the most important provisions is a negotiated increase in the number of units that will be rented at levels considered affordable for low-income residents of Ypsilanti.

In a city where nearly 70% of housing is occupied by tenants, residents are now facing “obscene price hikes by landlords”, with rent spikes reaching $200 to $400 a month, Desirae Simmons said, one of the co-chairs of the committee that drafted the agreement. It will only result in “eviction by price increase,” Simmons and his co-chair Lisa Voelker wrote in a letter to city council.

In response, the committee recommends the city waive some property tax revenue to allow developers to add 10 additional units reserved for residents earning 40% or less of the county’s median income, $47,120 for a household of four people according to the latest figures, as well as 10 more units for those earning 50% of the region’s median income, or $58,900 for that same family.

Tables included in the draft Community Benefits Agreement presented to Ypsilanti City Council on Tuesday, May 24, 2022 for the proposed 308-unit affordable housing complex at 845 and 945 West Clark Road show the planned distribution of apartments by level affordability. “AMI” refers to the area median income, a figure released annually for Washtenaw County and used to determine rent levels in affordable apartment complexes.City of Ypsilanti

Under an initial proposal, the development was to receive a tax incentive worth approximately $24.9 million over the next 30 years, although the committee proposed increasing this amount to increase the Affordability – a major sticking point at a community development meeting last year.

Read more: What is affordable in Ypsilanti? Residents challenge developer in community comment session

Now, undeveloped lots only generate $18,000 in property taxes each year, said Lincoln Avenue Capital developer Kyle Brasser, and the tax breaks are what make affordable units possible. The housing complex will still bring the city several hundred thousand dollars in revenue per year over what the vacant land provides, he said.

The proposal had a detractor. Jon Lusk, who sat on the committee and lives next to the proposed site for the development, said he thought the group “drift around a lot” and took the wrong direction in the final agreement he drafted, giving too much to the developer.

“I don’t really think the community itself really benefits from it, unless you decide to twist it and say the benefit of the community is the fact that it has affordable housing,” he said. he declares.

But that’s precisely what some city leaders said they liked about the proposal. The increased affordability “totally worth the trade-off here,” said city council member Annie Somerville. “It’s about creating spaces for people to exist and thrive and have a place to live in our community.”

Board member Brian Jones-Chance put it even more simply. “People are more important than money,” he said.

A drawn site plan shows a proposed six-building apartment complex in Ypsilanti.

A site plan from developer Lincoln Avenue Capital and DJR Architecture shows a 308-unit development at 845 and 945 West Clark Road in Ypsilanti, with apartments for individuals, seniors and families.Lincoln Avenue Capital / DJR Architecture, excerpt from Ypsilanti City Council meeting documents

Deal includes food pantry, community space and sponsorship for those with criminal records

Other parts of the project agreement with the developers provide mechanisms for residents to ensure that they get prompt repairs and responsive service from any property management company contracted to manage the complex.

It provides for the formation of a “residents’ council” where tenants can meet with property managers and landlords, raise concerns and suggest future improvements to the complex.

Developers will also need to set aside space for a “free store” or pantry that could be stocked with food and necessities available to residents free of charge. Additionally, the complex should include a “community space” for programs like after-school tutoring or other resident-led initiatives.

The agreement also requires property managers to develop a marketing plan for residents of the city, in the hopes that they will have a first chance to occupy some of the units when the complex is built.

Developers must also make “reasonable attempts” to hire previously incarcerated people, not excluding those charged with crimes, to work on the project, both during the construction and eventual maintenance phases of the development. Simmons said that ideally this would go beyond providing jobs, including mentoring and professional development for these people, through partnerships with community organizations.

Read more Ypsilanti news here.

Under the agreement, the developers will also enter into an agreement with the city to ensure that any land adjacent to the Huron River uncovered by the planned removal of the Peninsular Paper Dam is available for public use. They will also be required to provide a covered bus stop at the site, if approved by the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority.

Although the city council approved plans for the development of West Clark Road in mid-April, the community benefits agreement has yet to be finalized. After hearing public comment on the document on Tuesday, city laws allow 15 days for developers to respond to the proposal if they choose.

It will then return to city leaders for consideration and possibly a vote.

To read the draft Community Benefits Agreement for the West Clark Road project, Click here.

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