With the midterm elections just around the corner, the University of Michigan chapter of College Democrats, the Roosevelt Institute and the Michigan Affordability and Advocacy Coalition hosted a panel Monday night to discuss and explain Proposal A to University students at the Ford School of Public Policy. Panel members included Mayor Chris Taylor, Councilmember Zack Ackerman, D-Ward 3, and Public Policy Kellie Lounds, president of College Democrats.

Proposal A was introduced following the City Council’s approval of the Library Lot development in June, with plans of creating a 17-story commercial development complex on top of the 711 Underground Parking Structure in downtown Ann Arbor. The building would include 43 affordable housing units, office spaces, hotel rooms and a public plaza. If passed, Proposal A would reject these development plans, and instead, propose the city builds an additional urban park and civic center commons.  

The panelists argued the $5 million price tag of this park could instead be allocated towards affordable housing, which, according to the panelists, is a more pressing and relevant issue. Ackerman said with this new privately-owned complex, students or Ann Arbor residents that use federal housing vouchers to pay their rent would be able to live in the central downtown area, rather than on the outskirts of the city.

“If we truly want to remain a diverse and inclusive community, housing is the crux of this entire equation,” Ackerman said.

Ackerman said this complex would bridge the gap between the adult population in the Main Street area with the student population in the State Street and South University Avenue area. According to Ackerman, this building would fill an otherwise desolate area and give students walking home at night a greater sense of security.

The panelists explained even though the Library Lot development isn’t a comprehensive solution to affordable housing in Ann Arbor, this is a necessary first step in the process.

“With respect to affordable housing in the city of Ann Arbor, we have nowhere near enough of it,” Taylor said.

Many Ann Arbor residents who were vocal in favor of Proposal A were in the audience and, though audience members were not allowed time to speak during the event, they passed out written materials to other audience members.

An anonymous letter passed out to the crowd by a supporter said establishing a park on the Library Lot is a chance the city might not have again due to the increasing urbanization of downtown areas.

“Unless we protect this parcel now, it is more than likely that we will never again have an opportunity to create public open space in the heart of downtown,” the letter read.

LSA junior Yosef Gross, co-president of the Roosevelt Institute, said the event was intended to inform students and young voters of the implications of Proposal A.

“We think this is an event that is being portrayed in across Ann Arbor and through the ballot proposal question as an event about development and about a park, but really it’s … a ballot proposal about affordable housing and we wanted to make sure that students at the University of Michigan — people who are going to be voting on this — are clear about that,” Gross said.

Update: The “$5 million price tag of this park” refers to the money for affordable housing lost if the contract with Core Spaces is negated by the passage of Proposition A. This $5 million of the $10 million contract would be added to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund set up by the city of Ann Arbor. A previous version of the article mistakenly attributed the letter to an audience member.

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