Ann Arbor may be known as one of the best college towns in America, but it is also one of the most expensive. For many people, the staggering cost of housing prevents them from living in Ann Arbor, even if this is where they work and wish to call home. This year, voters have the chance to address this issue and vote for meaningful changes to greatly increase the amount of affordable housing in Ann Arbor.
On the ballot this November is Proposal C, a millage to build affordable housing in Ann Arbor. A millage is similar to a property tax and is levied on homeowners. In its first year, Proposal C is expected to raise $6.5 million and could potentially raise around $160 million over the next 20 years.
This money would go toward the construction and maintenance of affordable housing units that would be built on property currently owned by the city. The revenue generated from Proposal C would allow for the creation of between 1,000 and 2,000 units of affordable housing in Ann Arbor. This will help supply housing to people who could not otherwise afford to live in Ann Arbor.
Building such affordable housing would drastically transform the housing landscape. The average rent in Ann Arbor in February was $1,580, a staggeringly high price that is out of reach, especially for people who are making the current $9.65 minimum wage in Michigan. Ann Arbor is also one of the most economically segregated cities in the United States. This proposal would help with this issue by placing affordable housing units throughout the city, allowing for greater economic diversity in Ann Arbor.
The affordable housing built under Proposal C will be available to people who make up to 60% of the median area income. This would include people who are essential to our communities, such as home health aides, restaurant workers and other important members of the community.
Too often today, people who work in Ann Arbor are unable to shoulder the costs of living here. There are even some people who grew up here but have had to move out of their hometown due to rising living costs. Many people have had to move out to towns in the surrounding area such as Ypsilanti, leading to longer commutes that can be hard for workers to manage. The increased number of commuters also comes with an environmental downside, as more commuting by cars leads to greater greenhouse gas emissions and increased environmental degradation.
While this proposal would come with slightly higher taxes for homeowners in Ann Arbor, it is only a minor increase; it would only cost an additional $123.40 for a home with a taxable value of $123,400. That’s roughly a 0.1% tax increase. The proposal has been endorsed by the Chamber of Commerce, which states that Proposal C will help the Ann Arbor economy. The Chamber argues that by spending less money on rent, people can have more expendable income to spend at Ann Arbor businesses.
Proposal C directly relates to so many issues that young people care about, such as economic justice and climate change. Unfortunately, although many students would likely support the idea of Proposal C, many will not vote on it because they will not vote all the way down the ballot.
That is why it is so critical that people do their research on their options. If you get an absentee ballot in the mail or pick it up at the University of Michigan Museum of Art satellite city clerk’s office, spend some time researching what is on your ballot. If you are planning to vote in person on Election Day, then do your research in advance. Sites like VOTE411 can provide you with information on the candidates and proposals.
If we truly want to be the best college town in America, we need to work to build a more equitable Ann Arbor. Voting yes on Proposal C is a meaningful step that we can all take in pursuit of this goal.
Isabelle Schindler can be reached at email@example.com.
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