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Posted on Wed, Feb 23, 2011 : 5:58 a.m.

32-unit affordable housing project on city's west side wins approval from Ann Arbor City Council

By Ryan J. Stanton


This map shows the proposed location of the 1500 Pauline project. Avalon Housing plans to construct a 32-unit affordable housing complex replacing the current 47-unit complex.

Ann Arbor officials gave the OK Tuesday night for nonprofit Avalon Housing Inc. to develop 32 new affordable housing units and a community center on the city's west side.

But it will be a net loss of 15 affordable housing units in the city since a 47-unit apartment complex is being demolished to make way for the new project.

The City Council voted 7-0, with four members absent, to approve the project site plan, allowing the Ann Arbor-based housing agency to demolish the four existing apartment buildings and construct six new buildings containing a mix of apartments and townhouses.

Also included in the plans are 39 surface parking spaces. The site is located just east of Arbordale Street at 1500 Pauline Boulevard — a stone's throw from Fritz Park.

"They'll all be supportive housing, and this is a great step forward as we secure funding," Michael Appel, Avalon's associate director, said after Tuesday's approval from council.


Avalon Housing's Michael Appel appears before the Ann Arbor DDA in this file photo from last year.

Ryan J. Stanton |

Avalon officials said they ideally hope to complete construction on the $8 million project toward the end of 2012 and start leasing units in early 2013.

"We'll be applying for tax credits from the State Housing Development Authority in March, and additional subsidy through the first half of this year," Appel said. "If all goes well, we'll wrap up our financing this year and start construction next year."

City planners said the development would comply with the R4B multiple-family zoning district the property lies within.

Now called Parkhurst Apartments, the current complex features 47 apartment units that are home to federally subsidized low-income residents.

The 32 new units are expected to include 6 one-bedrooms, 14 two-bedrooms, and 12 three-bedrooms in five buildings. A community center and a playground with commercial play structures is proposed to be located in the center of the site.

Though it's a reduction of 15 units — including most of the one-bedrooms — it preserves all of the two- and three-bedroom apartments, Avalon officials said. The development is expected to primarily house families, including about 40 children.

"While any decrease in affordable housing stock is unfortunate, the existing density at 1500 Pauline has been problematic, and is higher than other Avalon or public housing family sites in the area," Avalon officials wrote in a memo provided to council members.

Avalon officials said the current buildings are believed to have been constructed in the late 1950s or early 1960s. The Washtenaw Affordable Housing Coalition purchased the apartments in the late 1990s, and Avalon took over management in 2009.

According to Avalon officials, the Michigan State Housing Development Authority — a critical funding source for the project — determined last year through multiple inspections that it wasn't cost-effective to renovate the aging buildings due to their level of distress.

Design improvements are an added benefit of the project, Avalon officials said. In contrast to the current isolated layout with a closed-off courtyard, the proposal for 1500 Pauline opens the site to the neighborhood and includes a mix of traditional apartments and townhouses.

The new construction also will allow for the addition of barrier-free units and will be significantly more energy efficient, Avalon officials said. And it will have space for community gardens.

The inclusion of a small community center on site is a key component of the agency's supportive housing approach. It's being designed to provide a space for tenants to receive services, develop skills and build community — all of which is essential to helping people with histories of homelessness and disabilities, Avalon officials said.

Half of the units will have project-based Section 8 vouchers targeted toward special needs tenants with either a disability or a history of homelessness — assuring those tenants pay only 30 percent of their income for rent. Rent at the other 16 units without a Section 8 voucher are geared to be affordable to households at 30 percent of the median area income.

Existing tenants will receive financial relocation assistance.

The City Planning Commission recommended approval of the 1500 Pauline project in January. In response to a request from the Planning Commission, Avalon officials revised the plan to add a sidewalk connection from the public sidewalk to the playground.

Council Member Mike Anglin, D-5th Ward, called it a "very important" project on Tuesday. He said he's glad to see it come forward because the existing buildings have been problematic.

"Its location is primary in the city," he added. "You're within a walk of grocery stores, the bus stops right outside this building — so it's ideally situated."

Council Members Stephen Rapundalo, Christopher Taylor, Marcia Higgins and Carsten Hohnke were absent from Tuesday's meeting.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529.


Atticus F.

Thu, Feb 24, 2011 : 7:05 p.m.

If you figure the cost per unit, Avalon Housing could purchase 50+ homes in Ann Arbor (in the more affordable neighborhoods). It's hard for me to knock Avalon because of all the good they do. However, it's sickening to see the contractor corruption in this particular case. And the money being wasted thats supposed to be helping the working poor.

Edward Vielmetti

Wed, Feb 23, 2011 : 8:08 p.m.

A comment was removed because it was acknowledged by the contributor to contain false assumptions. I'm trying to figure out what kind of details would be useful to provide a point of comparison between this project and other projects, since the "divide by n" math doesn't appear to provide useful points of reference.

Bob Martel

Wed, Feb 23, 2011 : 8:18 p.m.

Hi Ed, I would think that one useful "comp" would be the price paid by developers for the recent purchase of that apartment complex on South Main (Near Bush's.) I believe that the price was about $60k per unit. Granted these were "used" units but they were of recent vintage and are reflective of the FMV price paid by investors for apartments in this market. Another data point would be the per unit price paid for new apartment construction in this market (perhaps some of the high rise student apartments?) As with the existing complex I mentioned, I believe that you'll find that new construction runs under $100 k per unit. I think that the objection that many of the commentators have is that the $200k + per unit cost seems way out of line with what might have been obtained with a FMV purchase of a relatively newer apartment complex for the purpose intended by Avalon or by some other more sensible new construction. Personally I have a problem with Avalon paying $200k per unit for this purpose since I think they could have gotten more bang for their buck in other ways. However, I don't pretend to understand the intricacies of the financing that is available to them which may be driving what otherwise appears to be a suboptimal use of resources to accomplish a worthy goal.


Wed, Feb 23, 2011 : 8:02 p.m.

News Alert! Posters are now claiming that the apartments will be free. "the 32 people that are receiving the free apartments." Stop the madness.

Wolf's Bane

Wed, Feb 23, 2011 : 5:56 p.m.

If I were a neighbor, I'd wonder about my own property values. $203k for one unit doesn't seem affordable.


Wed, Feb 23, 2011 : 5:41 p.m.

The people going into these apartment homes cannot buy the $250,000 4 bed 2 bath house that certain people think they should be able to buy. These people are families that don't make that money, and everyone here knows that due to the last few years and the way the housing market is that they couldn't even come close to buying a house worth that much. These people like everyone else here should get a chance to live in a safe neighborhood and go to good schools, and all those make the cost of living go sky high. My family pays in the low 600's for a 2 bed 1 bath apartment in Ypsilanti, right across the street is Ann Arbor with AA schools and AA everything, and for the apartment same square footage you'll be paying $779 a month. I know someone who rents in AA for $1,000 for 2 bed 1 bath, people who cannot afford to live in a safe neighborhood should just be pushed into Ypsilanti and Detroit then right? I mean you don't want "those" people living here, with their noisy music and their parties all night, unless you are talking about the kids at the U who's parents give them money to keep AA up and running, I know I know not all kids at UofM have rich parents please don't get on me for that I'm just making a point.


Wed, Feb 23, 2011 : 7:59 p.m.

No one is getting a "free apartment".


Wed, Feb 23, 2011 : 7:58 p.m.

@ FredMax, Please read what was in the story it stated that half of the units pay 30 percent of their income for rent and the other "16 units without a Section 8 voucher are geared to be affordable to households at 30 percent of the median area income" No one is getting a free house everyone is paying something. Like I said I was making a point I know not all the parents pay for their kids education and not all parents are rich, personally I do not know that it's half, I have friends that went to UofM and that still are going there I know that people pay their own way just a point I was making. @Andys well this complex couldn't have been that great if they are destroying it and rebuilding it, the people that would not have house are single people, people who need the school district are the people with kids and those people will still be there. Here's a quote for you "Though it's a reduction of 15 units — including most of the one-bedrooms — it preserves all of the two- and three-bedroom apartments" So 15 fewer people, not families will not get the chance at AA Schools, those 15 people should be out of high school if they are living on their own, maybe they still need a GED no shame in that but they don't need to be in the AA school system they can go to WCC and get their GED.


Wed, Feb 23, 2011 : 6:57 p.m.

Actually, nearly half of all UM students come from families that make under $100K. Thus, at least half of the student body comes from homes that can afford less "house" than the 32 people that are receiving the free apartments.


Wed, Feb 23, 2011 : 6:02 p.m.

@ Allison "These people like everyone else here should get a chance to live in a safe neighborhood and go to good schools, and all those make the cost of living go sky high." Under this plan 15 fewer families now get that chance.


Wed, Feb 23, 2011 : 5:23 p.m.

Before cutting Housing or Human Service Fund, people needs to pay attention to the big non-profits and the served targets. Avalon Housing is a big non-profit, not for profit, but still needs money to run the organization. Besides, 1500 Pauline, please have a look at "Near North" housing project in AA downtown by Avalon Housing, the cost of one apartment is over $330,000, right three hundred thirty thousand dollars for one apartment. Now, 1500 Pauline, Avalon Housing was originally expected to do the rehabilitation. They made good use of the comment of MSHDA, (Please check online audit report about this organization released Jan 2011). If MSHDA doesn't invest money to rehab, people know that they can still get funds to rehab through AA Housing Trust Fund, CDBG Home Fund, AA General Fund...... But Avalon Housing forget the AA Housing Report 2005 stating the importance of keeping housing stock & EXPAND low-income housing. They use $ 8 million dollars to rebuild but lose 15 units. People in the community said "Don't forget the 10-15% developer fee kicked back to Avalon in cash! Avalon needs that money to keep themselves afloat." No matter what, we've over 4000 homeless in Washtenaw County (Data from the County), our country is in great debt and it's not easy to get fund to do the construction project. Should we easily tear down current apartments and rebuild? How many locals live in houses over 50, 60, or even 70 years? I'm one of them, and you? Don't forget, we still need money to help & compensate the current tenants there for few years. Our community needs integrity.


Wed, Feb 23, 2011 : 4:27 p.m.

I must not have enough compassion, because I still don't understand, even after the corrections to Hot Sam's math. One can buy a 10 year old home, 4 bed/2.5 bath/2 garage, in a top neighborhood in Ann Arbor, for 250K: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> Here we are building 1 and 2 bedroom apartments for the same amount each? I'd be grateful if someone can help me understand this. Hint: the going rate for demolition and insulation would not be part of any valid explanation.

John Q

Wed, Feb 23, 2011 : 6:02 p.m.

How many of the &quot;experts&quot; have any personal knowledge of the conditions of the current units? Or the costs associated with constructing apartment buildings? And when someone says &quot;the demolition costs are not part of any valid explanation&quot;, you know that this person doesn't have the first clue about the costs associated with building rehab or new construction.


Wed, Feb 23, 2011 : 5:30 p.m.

bugjuice, I agree 100%, and when I find myself standing in that line, I don't want all the money to be given to the first 32 people in line, while the other 968 in the line are left to camp under a bridge out on Wagner and I-94. Again, if building costs have skyrocketed, then why are we *choosing* to build, rather than to re-use existing real-estate that is highly discounted?


Wed, Feb 23, 2011 : 5:27 p.m.

Bugjuice What commenters are saying is that the cost for these units are too high. We just want to get a fair bang for our buck. Building costs have not risen for years with the recession in progress. A 1 or 2 bedroom apartment for well over $200,000 apiece is piracy. If we use government money wisely, we can do MORE for the less fortunate. I am in construction, and it is hard to imagine that the existing places couldn't be fixed up very well for $70,000 each, which means there would be almost 50% more units for a little bit over 3 million dollars, saving almost 5 million and helping 15 extra families. An entire 3 bedroom home in Ann Arbor can be purchased for $200,000. A 1 bedroom Condo in the same neighborhood can be purchased for $100,000. Let's spend OUR money sensibly.


Wed, Feb 23, 2011 : 5:07 p.m.

Regardless that building costs have skyrocketed in the last decade, if one wants to live in a civilized society and not just exist in isolation, safely separated from those we deride and scorn because of their economic, social, cultural and political status... We, every single one of us, is responsible for ALL the members of community, not just the ones wealthy enough to afford housing. Any one of us could be next in line.


Wed, Feb 23, 2011 : 4:53 p.m.

Fred, silly you! You can't expect those needing housing assistance to live less expensive housing than you and I (the one's paying the subsidy) live in. That would be cruel.


Wed, Feb 23, 2011 : 4:23 p.m.

Hot Sam, fuzzy math: Assume the community center will be $1M, and demolition another $.5M. $6.5 into thirty-two units is $203125 per. Still surprising for apartments with shared walls and infrastructure, so no need to exaggerate.

Craig Lounsbury

Wed, Feb 23, 2011 : 4:20 p.m.

&quot;I must wonder what type of people live in a place and trash is so much that anyone feels that it must be torn down. &quot; Good question&quot; Since I moved to SE Michigan in 1962 The Detroit Tigers are in their second &quot;home&quot; the Lions in their third 'home&quot; the Pistons in their third 'home&quot; and the Red Wings want to bail out on their second &quot;home&quot; and find a third one. Whats up with those millionaires and billionaires?


Wed, Feb 23, 2011 : 4:01 p.m.

How many of the professionals that work at U of M and Ann Arbor businesses live in that neighborhood in houses that are worth well less than $250k? There is plenty of 1950's built housing stock within a mile of there (across Stadium Blvd, and up and down Pauline) that are worth well less than $250k. This just seems excessive! Have cheaper alternatives been considered? Could we not help more families with the kind of credits / subsidy support that will be spent here?

John Q

Wed, Feb 23, 2011 : 7:08 p.m.

Do you know anything about these programs or the families they serve?


Wed, Feb 23, 2011 : 6:22 p.m.

@ John Q No, no there is not much, if any, housing stock in that state in the City of Ann Arbor, any that comes up for sale, mostly gets purchased, fixed up. Much of it would be valued at less than $250k. The fools are the ones that support economically unsustainable social programs. But what do I know, I only live in a 1950's house valued at less than $250k.

John Q

Wed, Feb 23, 2011 : 6:06 p.m.

I'm sure there's plenty of building stock that's grossly energy inefficient, not up to current building codes, that hasn't been upgraded since the 1950s or worse, poorly upgraded. I'm sure you could dump these families with extremely limited resources into these money pits and call it a day. You would be a fool to do so but some people seem to excel at showing that characteristic off to everyone.


Wed, Feb 23, 2011 : 5:41 p.m.

Bug your you do very well at the game, don't be so humble


Wed, Feb 23, 2011 : 5:03 p.m.

Well then try this on. Its absurd that many of us that live in that area are going to (as taxpayers) contribute housing subsidies to people that will live in more expensive homes than us.


Wed, Feb 23, 2011 : 4:42 p.m.

I find it hard to compete with those who are better at the absurdity game than I am.


Wed, Feb 23, 2011 : 4:12 p.m.

Maybe we could build them $1 million dollar mansions! Two can play the absurdity game.


Wed, Feb 23, 2011 : 4:07 p.m.

Maybe all those families could live in cardboard boxes or scrapped Suburbans parked out by the freeway? They're both cheaper than an actual building.


Wed, Feb 23, 2011 : 3:37 p.m.

I do wonder why they decided to rebuild this housing unit and where the people living there will go while its being re-built. Will those people have to reapply to live in the new units? Will they be put at the top of the list (assuming they still qualify)? Maybe these decisions haven't been made yet.


Wed, Feb 23, 2011 : 3:22 p.m.

Commenters seem to be confusing the total cost of the project with just construction costs. The total project includes demolition of the existing 47 units in 4 buildings, construction of 5 new buildings (all energy-efficient, some barrier-free for disabled tenants) and the small community center. That's what costs 8 million.


Wed, Feb 23, 2011 : 3:33 p.m.

Thank you for the breakdown. Hopefully this clears things up a bit for people misreading the numbers.


Wed, Feb 23, 2011 : 3:29 p.m.

Confusing or ignoring. Not to cast aspersions on all commentators, but it's a very common practice to use these comments as a sound board for propaganda as opposed to reasonable discussion or honest debate. I applaud your clarifying comment!


Wed, Feb 23, 2011 : 3:09 p.m.

The top vote getting comments so far are all based on glimmertwin's false assumption that people who live in subsidized low income housing (this project is not) do not care about it enough to maintain it. The next &quot;popular&quot; opinion is based on Hot Sam's bad math that does not take into account how many people will live in those residences or for how many years to spread out the costs beyond the one provided by his simplistic and misleading &quot;calculations&quot;. The third &quot;popular&quot; vote getter is based on the misinformation from both the other &quot;popular&quot; posts. This is exactly how Fox &quot;news&quot; spreads their disinformation and gets it accepted as &quot;fact&quot;. it appears that annarbordotcom is not above the Fox News style of (mis) information gathering and distribution. As Winston Churchill once observed, &quot;A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.&quot;


Wed, Feb 23, 2011 : 2:43 p.m.

Cost per unit sounds very high. How about some numbers from developers that concentrate on market rate units? Hard to imagine this cost per unit is justified in the real market. Also, I am quite certain that in the past funds were put into these units from CDBG, MSHDA or both. Has the money previously invested ever been repaid? It is possible the funds were grants but not likely since this was an invester owned rental property.

just a voice

Wed, Feb 23, 2011 : 2:17 p.m.

the actual cost is $228,571.43 (rounded to the nearest penny) This still seems a bit high to me, you can buy houses in ann arbor for that price. @glimmertwin - they were not built as low income housing, just as apartments, so your statement is hollow


Wed, Feb 23, 2011 : 1:46 p.m.

It 32 units for 8 million, not 15. that comes out to 250,000 per unit.

Silly Sally

Wed, Feb 23, 2011 : 1:27 p.m.

What is wrong with helping 47 families live in already constructed buildings and not spending $8 million? I wish I lived in a $533,000 home, and only had to pay 30% of my income, no matter what. This waste is sort of like the DeLounes Center and its large cost per bed. &quot;Secure funding&quot; is an euphemism fro tax money. I must wonder what type of people live in a place and trash is so much that anyone feels that it must be torn down. This doesn't happen with public housing in Europe, nor with homes or apartments rented to a different class of people. What will headlines be saying about these new buildings in another 40 or 50 years?

Christopher LeClair

Wed, Feb 23, 2011 : 5:29 p.m.

1) It's the DELONIS center 2) I volunteer there and they run a wonderful facility 3) Housing the homeless and providing them with the social resources to better their lives is not cheap, at least they are doing something. 4) I am sure you are doing fine financially, so please don't hate on those who need assistance


Wed, Feb 23, 2011 : 3:37 p.m.

Silly Sally's accepted Hot Sam's bad math as truth. Then extrapolates the bad math to make an unsubstantiated claim on so called European public housing and slams those less fortunate. My oh my. Don't we all enjoy living in an enlightened and compassionate society?


Wed, Feb 23, 2011 : 3:24 p.m.

Please provide us with the facts that support your opinion that &quot;This doesn't happen with public housing in Europe, nor with homes or apartments rented to a different class of people. And what &quot;different class of people&quot; would that be?


Wed, Feb 23, 2011 : 2:52 p.m.

There but for the grace of God, go you and I. For those only a paycheck or two away from homelessness and it could be you and I, a roof over our heads is God sent.

Matt Cooper

Wed, Feb 23, 2011 : 2:14 p.m.

Couple points: 1. It's 32 families, not 47. 2. It's 32 homes for 8 mil., not 15. Check your math and you will see that 32 homes for 8 mil. comes to roughly $250k per, not $533k. 3. It's Delonis center not DeLounes, and is not an apartment complex nor low income housing. It is a homeless shelter that has helped literally several hundres of people get back on their feet and off the streets.


Wed, Feb 23, 2011 : 1:16 p.m.

Curious how old the units that are being demolished are. Strikes me kind of funny that homes that are not involved with low-income can last for hundreds of years, but subsidized housing seems to be a few decades old and needs to be demolished. Makes you kind of wonder, doesn't it?


Wed, Feb 23, 2011 : 9:19 p.m.

@ Bugjuice Just curious, do you recognize the &quot;propaganda&quot; that comes out of MSN or is their reporting spot on?


Wed, Feb 23, 2011 : 3:51 p.m.

What a load of Fox News style propaganda.


Wed, Feb 23, 2011 : 3:12 p.m.

Read more closely. &quot;Avalon officials said the current buildings are believed to have been constructed in the late 1950s or early 1960s. The Washtenaw Affordable Housing Coalition purchased the apartments in the late 1990s, and Avalon took over management in 2009.&quot; So the answer to your question was in the article, they're roughly 50 years old. Also, they weren't operated as subsidized low-income housing until the 90's. How many rental apartment buildings do you think last &quot;hundreds of years?&quot;


Wed, Feb 23, 2011 : 2:43 p.m.

glimmertwin's point is to backhandedly tell us that people who live in low income don't care for their residences like middle class homeowners. His comment has nothing to do with the kind of residences they are or how well they're built. It's a slam on the less fortunate.

Craig Lounsbury

Wed, Feb 23, 2011 : 1:39 p.m.

I'm not sure what your point is. Not many homes last 100's of years. Builders put a lot more in to a custom built home than an &quot;apartment complex&quot;. A home has a lot less turn over in general than an apartment complex. Folks who own a home have a vested interest that renters, regardless of income, don't. Rental units often do not get the routine maintenance a single family home does for the simple reason the owner isn't living in the unit. Some landlords do the bare bones minimum to maximize their profit. There are lots of reasons that go beyond &quot;low income....subsidized housing&quot;.


Wed, Feb 23, 2011 : 12:51 p.m.

This is long overdue and the kind of project that all the citizens will benefit from partnership in.


Wed, Feb 23, 2011 : 12:44 p.m.

This housing project sounds like it will be a great addition to Ann Arbor. I applaud city council on its approval and the moving forward with this project.