Public input sought on proposed affordable housing development in Ypsilanti

The public is invited to comment on a proposal for an affordable housing development at 220 N. Park St. in Ypsilanti during two virtual feedback sessions June 28 and 29. 
The property on North Park, which formerly housed the Ypsilanti Boys and Girls Club, is owned by the city of Ypsilanti. City officials are collaborating with woman-owned development firm Renovare Development on a development that would add to affordable housing stock in the city.
The city ended up owning the property due to tax reversion in the '30s. When the Boys and Girls Club shut down about 10 years ago, the city didn't have much use for the property, and it was in bad repair and full of mold, says Joe Meyers, director of economic development for the city.
The city demolished the building and sought to attract a developer, but a possible deal in 2017 fell through. City officials began discussing using the site to provide affordable housing, and Renovare staff thought they had the ability to build homes at the right price point.
The current plan calls for 20 duplexes of about 1,200 square feet each. It also calls for 36 detached row homes being referred to as cottages because they're small, ranging from 450 to 900 square feet. 
Meyers says the homes are targeted at individuals or young families who need a starter home. Home prices would range from $140,000-$220,000, and the city is looking for creative ways to fund down-payment assistance up to $10,000 for anyone making 40% to 120% of the county's median income. Meyer says that, because of the way Brownfield Tax Increment Financing legislation is written, the development may qualify for funding through that program, even though the site isn't contaminated and therefore isn't considered a brownfield. 

Meyers says public input so far has been "all over the board," with some people strongly in favor, and others critical of the extra traffic the development would bring to the neighborhood.

To counteract some doubts about the new development, the city is asking the developer to use designs characteristic of the surrounding historic district. For instance, all the homes will have a front porch, and there will be wood accents and no vinyl siding. 

Teresa Gillotti, director at the Washtenaw County Office of Community and Economic Development, says the project is "modest in size, but still significant."

She notes that Ann Arbor and Dexter have used the strategy of putting affordable housing on city-owned lands, but that has largely centered around affordable rentals, while Ypsilanti's project focuses on home ownership. She says the idea of pairing it with down-payment assistance is "exciting," as well.

"You're not going to get a new house for $140,000 anywhere else in the county," she says. "This is an exciting opportunity for there to be some development of single-family homes in a community that is majority rental."

The public will have a number of opportunities to comment on the plan over the next year or so, including city council meetings and through the planning commission. However, the first official opportunity to give feedback will take place during two Zoom meetings. The first is set for 1 p.m. June 28 and the second at 7 p.m. June 29. Those without internet access may also call into the meeting by phone.

More information is available here and links to the meetings are available on the city's Facebook page

Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township and the project manager of On the Ground Ypsilanti. She joined Concentrate as a news writer in early 2017 and is an occasional contributor to other Issue Media Group publications. You may reach her at sarahrigg1@gmail.com.

Rendering courtesy of Renovare.
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