More than 100 Ann Arbor residents and students marched Sunday to raise awareness about affordable housing issues in the city. Gathering initially in Liberty Plaza, many members of the group spoke about their personal housing experiences and urged others to contact their representatives about housing issues.
According to the Washtenaw General Defense Committee, rent went up 15 percent in the last year alone in some areas of the city. Two different reports from this August confirmed Ann Arbor's skyrocketing rents, with a year-over-year rent increase of 15.9 percent. The committee also said about 80,000 individuals commute to Ann Arbor as there isn’t affordable housing closer to their point of work. The University of Michigan also has a large effect on this issue, as every year the number of students trying to find off-campus housing grows, according to the Washtenaw General Defense Committee.
Several different social activism groups participated in the march. The Washtenaw General Defense Committee, Interfaith Council for Peace & Justice, Journey of Faith Christian Church, Poor People’s Campaign of Washtenaw County and Huron Valley Democratic Socialists of America all had representatives present. Rackham student Meg Berkobien, co-chair of the Huron Valley DSA, said housing affordability is a systemic issue that needs to be addressed.
“This is a systemic problem, and so it takes systemic answers, right. Coming together, that’s exactly what this is about. We’re forging community ties, we’re coming together,” Berkobien said.
Berkobien said the University is one of the main factors in this problem, as student enrollment continually increases and no action is taken to help relieve the housing strain.
“I think that we need public housing. We need social housing. We don’t need developers selling things at market rates so that a handful of apartments come on the market at apparently affordable rates,” Berkobien said.
Niels Hoyle-Dodson, Taubman graduate student and member of the DSA, said that the best way to make a change is to get involved through civic action and involvement in local politics. Hoyle-Dodson emphasized the importance of protecting working-class rights.
“I think it’s really kind of intrinsically linked to labor in a lot of ways, and the way that they kind of represent workers, especially when you think about the amount of people who are commuting here to work all the time,” Hoyle-Dodson said.
Another attendee of the rally, community member Lisa Schramm, who is part of the General Defense Committee, believes a lack of affordable housing is increasing poverty in the community.
“The more you push people out with increased housing prices and worrying about property values over human rights, the poorer your community is getting,” Schramm said.
Schramm said much of the city’s personality has been lost due to University students renting housing units, reducing the diversity of income groups in Ann Arbor.
“I think that the things that made Ann Arbor really a spectacular place up until, you know, the late ‘90s, was the diversity and community,” Schramm said.
The march concluded at the Blake Transit Center, the old location of the YMCA. The YMCA used to provide housing to those without a place to stay, and when it was demolished in 2008, the city promised to make a new location where those without a home could stay for a brief period of time. As of now, that promise has not been fulfilled.me could stay for a brief period of time. As of now, that promise has not been fulfilled.