Housing for all


Published May 27, 2002

Ann Arbor may have a reputation for being an inclusive and liberal community, but many of its residents continue to prove otherwise. At last Tuesday's Ann Arbor Planning Commission meeting, homeowners from northeast Ann Arbor vigorously resisted the Carrot Way Development plan, a proposal that would create thirty low-income housing units (managed by Avalon Housing Inc.) and a new warehouse for Washtenaw County food redistributer, Food Gatherers. Despite residents' protests, the commission voted 9-1 to recommend the development to the City Council.

This was the second go-around for the proposal, which was originally tabled at a March 19 AAPC meeting because of residents' concerns. Since then, the project has received overwhelming support from neighbors of other Avalon projects and evidence has been presented that Avalon-managed properties are well-maintained, inconspicuous and community-friendly. Yet many homeowners continue to resist the project, choosing instead to believe that low-income housing is synonymous with criminal activity and unsightly properties.

The other opposing issues - traffic, which the Ann Arbor Public Services Department did not deem pressing enough to mention in their review of the project, mixed land use and density - should not result in scrapping a plan that addresses basic human needs.

Housing costs have risen dramatically in the last 10 years and it has become increasingly difficult for low-income families to purchase homes in Ann Arbor, where the average house costs $268,000. As a result, there is an extremely high demand for affordable housing projects like Carrot Way. The recently released Northeast Area Plan acknowledges this scarcity and identifies it as one of Ann Arbor's major community objectives.

Unfortunately, many residents around the proposed Dhu Varren Road site don't view the project from the same community-oriented perspective. They fail to see the larger picture : A valuable piece of property has become available for the development of low-income housing in a city where many of its workers cannot afford to live within its limits. Opposing voices have instead reflected a series of selfish complaints that put traffic jams ahead of economic diversity.

The Carrot Way Development allows a unique way for Ann Arbor to follow its own planning prescriptions by expanding low-income housing while simultaneously providing Food Gatherers with much-needed warehouse space. Food Gatherers and Avalon are both veteran non-profit organizations who can provide creative solutions to Ann Arbor's social problems. Developments that include organizations like these ought to be welcomed with open arms, not resisted. All of Ann Arbor benefits from the diversity and community that is created when neighborhoods and cities are not segregated by income and when families are able to afford adequate housing.

Concessions have been made on both sides, but the homeowners, organized under the name PLANSMART, vow that they will continue their fight. While it appears that the opposition was the vocal majority at the AACPC meeting last Tuesday, many residents in the area have offered their support for the project. The City Council should follow their lead and approve the Carrot Way Development.