Ypsilanti residents' input invited on county-funded improvements to Southside neighborhood

Ypsilanti residents are invited to give input on how Washtenaw Urban County should spend $200,000 in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) income on Ypsilanti's Southside. Washtenaw Urban County is a partnership between the Washtenaw County government and the cities, townships, and villages who have agreed to participate in federally-funded programs.

Tara Cohen, CDBG management analyst for the Washtenaw County Office of Community and Economic Development (OCED), says CDBG income is money that the OCED receives primarily from the single-family housing rehabilitation program it administers.

She says that some programs for low- to moderate-income families require a lien on the property. The lien is forgiven gradually over time, but if the owner sells the property before the lien is 100% forgiven, the remaining amount goes back to the county in the form of CDBG income.

In 2017, Washtenaw Urban County developed a framework for fair housing with 10 broad goals, and one of those was coordinating private and public funders for "low-opportunity areas."

"So we're investing 100% of that CDBG income into two under-resourced areas with a high concentration of poverty," Cohen says. One is the Leforge area north of Eastern Michigan University, and the other is Ypsilanti's Southside.

Cohen says the idea of community development is "very broad" and flexible. It can't pay for most programming or for salaries, but residents are welcome to suggest other uses.

"It can fund street improvements, physical improvements to parks and community center buildings, home improvements for low- to moderate-income homeowners, or down payment assistance," Cohen says. "It's even been used for demolition, to clean up blight."

Previous community feedback sessions led to playground improvements at Parkridge Park on Ypsilanti's Southside last year. 

"There was interest expressed in our last round in 2019 and 2020 when we first had these input sessions in funding things around home ownership, but, ultimately, there were slightly more votes for Parkridge Park, and that rose to the top," Cohen says. "It was a very small playground and didn't serve the needs of families in the area [before the improvements]."

One in-person input session and one virtual session have already taken place. Upcoming sessions are scheduled for:
  • 6-7:30 p.m. tonight, Nov. 3, at the Hamilton Crossing Apartments Community Room, 596 S. Hamilton St. in Ypsilanti
  • 5-7:30 p.m. Nov. 10 at the outdoor patio at Arbor Manor/Forrest Knoll, 693 Arbor Dr. in Ypsilanti
  • 6-7:30 p.m. Nov. 17 at  the New Parkridge Apartments Community Room, 831 Hilyard Robinson Way in Ypsilanti

Social distancing and masks are encouraged for outdoor sessions, while masks and social distancing are required for all indoor sessions. The general public is invited to participate in all sessions regardless of meeting location, and light refreshments will be served.

Residents unable to attend any of these sessions may provide input through an online survey here. A summary of the results of all input sessions and information about next steps will be available here.

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.

Photo courtesy of Washtenaw Urban County.