The Ann Arbor City Council met Monday evening via Zoom in a public livestream. Despite the meeting’s alternative format, the council kept its usual structure, including public comments via phone calls and speakers from various city government organizations, informing the public on issues such as zoning policy and the city budget.
With people across the country as well as local tenants calling for a rent freeze, or the forgiveness of debt, council members took up the issue.
Council members unanimously passed a resolution that extended eviction prevention for tenants of Ann Arbor Housing Commission properties. The resolution also allocated $200,000 in emergency assistance funds.
Councilmember Zachary Ackerman, D-Ward 3, said the COVID-19 outbreak and the necessary public health solutions, such as Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” Executive Order, have had major economic repercussions that impact Ann Arbor tenants.
“We have a set of tenants who find themselves in a financial hole and, when the states release their hold on evictions, may face becoming homeless very quickly,” Ackerman said. “As a community and an affluent one, in fact the most affluent in the state, we can take it upon ourselves to fill that hole.”
Councilmember Jack Eaton, D-Ward 4, said the council should strive to help the Ann Arbor community during this difficult time.
“We are really going to have a horrible economy for the foreseeable future, and to the extent that we can help our residents, we should do that,” Eaton said.
The council opened their meeting with comments from various council members to the public. Council members used this time to thank essential workers, citizens for 3D-printing protective equipment for health care workers and citizens doing their part by social distancing.
Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor encouraged citizens to continue to practice social distancing.
“Go outside, but do so in a matter that is safe,” Taylor said. “Your attention to detail will help a nurse on her shift or a doctor on her rounds. Your attention to detail will save lives, so please be careful at all times.”
With the coronavirus pandemic limiting the movement of citizens, Councilmember Julie Grand, D-Ward 3, mentioned the councilmembers’ desire to allow essential workers to do their jobs without getting in the way.
“We are both trying to be responsive, but also stay out of the way of people who need to provide these essential services,” Grand said. “Knowing when it’s the county, knowing when it’s the state who really needs to step in and we are very fortunate to have incredible partners at both of these levels.”
Reporter Isabella Preissle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.