You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 1:53 p.m.

Ann Arbor lays out green affordable housing proposal in Bloomberg's Mayors Challenge

By Ryan J. Stanton

Ann Arbor is officially one of 305 cites nationwide that have submitted an idea in Bloomberg Philanthropies' first-ever Mayors Challenge.

The city's "green affordable housing" proposal is now in the running to win either a $5 million grand prize or one of four $1 million prizes to help carry out the idea.

Ann Arbor announced last month it would be participating in the challenge. Participating mayors had to submit their ideas by Sept. 14.

According to the contest rules, the winning idea must solve a major social or economic issue, improve the customer service experience for citizens or businesses, enhance accountability, transparency and public engagement, and/or increase government efficiency.


Courtesy of Bloomberg Philanthropies

The city argues its idea achieves several goals, including raising awareness about green building performance and energy efficiency while increasing affordable housing units in the city to address socio-economic inequality by enabling low-income households to live closer to public transit, good schools, jobs and services.

Jennifer Hall, the city's Housing Commission director, took the lead on submitting Ann Arbor's proposal on behalf of Mayor John Hieftje.

"The market for green affordable housing is not working in Ann Arbor," the proposal states. "Ann Arbor will drive affordable and green developments by repurposing underutilized publicly-owned properties. Some properties will be sold to the private sector with sales proceeds used to develop affordable housing either on public or private parcels."

Asked what the headline might read on the cover of Bloomberg Businessweek if the city's proposal pans out in five years, the city replied in its application: "Ann Arbor reinvents affordable housing as a catalyst for economic development and environmental innovation."

The city estimates it would cost $5,000 to $25,000 per property to conduct a feasibility analysis, $150,000 for workshops and educational components, and $40 million to $60 million to develop the properties and provide incentives.

"The city will work with the state and International Code Council to amend the Michigan Uniform Code to enable technologies as needed," the proposal states, promising the developments will test cutting-edge and alternative building products to educate the public, staff and contractors about green housing technology and increase the demand for energy efficient housing.

A selection committee announced this week will help Bloomberg Philanthropies identify the 20 cities that will advance to the finalist stage of the competition.

Once finalists are selected, teams from each city will attend Bloomberg Ideas Camp, a two-day gathering in New York in November where they will work collaboratively to improve the ideas.

Ann Arbor officials have increased their focus on the issue of affordable housing recently, most notably with City Council Member Sandi Smith's proposal to transfer proceeds from future sales of downtown city-owned properties toward affordable housing. Hall also made a pitch this month to have the Downtown Development Authority give $260,000 to help the Housing Commission complete energy efficient improvements, including a new steel roof, at Baker Commons, 106 Packard.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's email newsletters.


Dog Guy

Fri, Sep 28, 2012 : 12:31 a.m.

"According to the contest rules, the winning idea must solve a major social or economic issue, improve the customer service experience for citizens or businesses, enhance accountability, transparency and public engagement, and/or increase government efficiency." Ann Arbor clearly has been preparing for this contest for the last dozen years and can now very easily beat the other 304 cities in any or all of these categories.


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 11:08 p.m.

Any time I see "workshop" as a cost item on a governmental agenda I cringe. Just like "commission," "task force," "board," and "committee." These are buzzwords that should raise red flags for anyone whose taxes would go to such a thing; at a federal level, but especially at local levels like Ann Arbor and Ypsi.


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 10:29 p.m.

If you want "Affordable Housing" there is always Ypsilanti! Why not buy it with the money from DDA property sale?

Vivienne Armentrout

Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 9:13 p.m.

This is apparently linked to the recent efforts coming from Sandi Smith and others to dedicate sale of public property to affordable housing. From the application: (in response to a question about risk factors) City Council may not approve the sale of public properties and may not dedicate the funds to affordable housing. This would undermine the secure financial base for our plan. The plan is to work with council members and community leaders who are affordable housing allies to approve a resolution directing proceeds from the sale of property to the Ann Arbor Housing Trust Fund. I made an effort at the time of the original announcement to find out who administers the Ann Arbor Affordable Housing Trust Fund. I contacted Jennifer Hall with that question. Her answer was that it is the Housing and Human Services Advisory Board. This board has many vacancies and meets infrequently. She also indicated that she does not staff that board. Now we are told (in the body of the grant) that the money will go to Ms. Hall to administer with a new project manager . This is outside the current assignment of the Public Housing Commission (I assume). It seems we are trying to recreate our Community Development department.


Fri, Sep 28, 2012 : 1:42 a.m.

Vivienne, why do you keep trying to confuse us with facts?


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 7:40 p.m.

Any money from the sale of the five public properties should first be applied to the $14 million of repairs needed by the 355 low-income housing units operated by the Ann Arbor Public Housing Commission (AAPHC). The Schumaker and Company analysis of the AAPHC performance, accepted in March 2010, extensively criticized the AAPHC on almost all aspects of functioning. Before the AAPHC adds to its present inventory of managed properties it needs to correct its deficiencies and those involving the housing. Some of the emergency repairs identified in the Schumaker report were supposed to have been corrected two years ago and would have cost over $1million. Needless to say tenants may be risking life and limb until the AAPHC takes action to improve their living conditions.


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 6:59 p.m.

Please define "affordable". Will this be for all the minimum wage earners or for the $50000 a year young professionals?