Avalon Housing launches electric car-sharing program at three Ann Arbor locations

Ann Arbor nonprofit Avalon Housing has partnered with two other organizations to launch an electric car-sharing system at three of the affordable housing properties Avalon manages.

Avalon partnered with Oregon-based nonprofit Forth Mobility, as well as the national Affordable Mobility Platform (AMP) program through the Michigan Clean Cities initiative, to create the new amenity. The program launched on May 30 with one vehicle at Carrot Way Apartments in Ann Arbor, and will expand later this summer by adding a second car to Carrot Way, then four additional cars between Avalon properties at Hickory Way and 701 Miller in Ann Arbor.

Avalon Executive Director Aaron Cooper explains that the opportunity "came out of left field" for Avalon. He says the missions behind AMP and Forth Mobility fit within Avalon’s mission of providing not just housing, but also stability that allows residents to build wealth and adequately support themselves and their families. He says many of Avalon’s residents don’t have access to reliable transportation due to the costs of car maintenance or insurance, which can hinder them from finding or getting to work, purchasing groceries for their household, or getting children to and from school. 

"Insurance costs are very high in Michigan, and a lot of our residents don’t drive for that reason," Cooper says. "This program allows families an opportunity to do something as simple as running to Walmart to get diapers for their child – and shows just how difficult it can be for some families to do things like that."

The program requires interested parties to register through Forth Mobility’s Mobility Development Operations (MDO) app for $10. Once registration is complete, they will receive a $20 credit to their account. After an onboarding call with a Forth Mobility staffer to learn how to properly use and charge an electric vehicle, registered users can reserve vehicles for up to 10 hours a day at $5 an hour. While the vehicles will be located at Avalon residences, Cooper emphasizes that the program is open to all.

"We firmly believed that this program shouldn’t be restricted," Cooper says. "This is not just for the residents of Avalon properties. Anyone from the community can use the vehicles."

Cooper hopes the program will inspire other organizations to implement similar initiatives in low-income neighborhoods, demonstrating the importance of increasing access to reliable transportation while proving that eco-friendly solutions can thrive in these areas. He noted that residents quickly embraced the service after its May 30 launch. Cooper is optimistic that the program's expansion to additional locations later this summer will enable even more Avalon residents and community members to benefit from it.

"The thing I’m most pleased with is the fact that it can dispel the myth that programs like these can’t succeed in these neighborhoods," Cooper says. "Residents are already using it, and we’ve gotten good feedback for the program so far."

For more information about the program and how to apply for membership, visit Forth Mobility’s MDO Carshare website.

"I’ve seen throughout my career that historically low-income neighborhoods are heavily climate-impacted by things like railroad lines or the concrete industry," Cooper says. "To be able to put something like this in a low-income area shows folks that they deserve equitable opportunities and access to these kinds of things."

Rylee Barnsdale is a Michigan native and longtime Washtenaw County resident. She wants to use her journalistic experience from her time at Eastern Michigan University writing for the Eastern Echo to tell the stories of Washtenaw County residents that need to be heard.

Photo courtesy of Fako Media.
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