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Posted on Wed, Jan 6, 2010 : 4:40 p.m.

Near North affordable housing project gets $500,000 commitment from Ann Arbor DDA

By Ryan J. Stanton

A 39-unit affordable housing project received a $500,000 boost from the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority's governing board this afternoon.

DDA officials agreed to contribute funding toward Avalon Housing's construction of the Near North apartment complex on 1.19 acres at 626-724 North Main St.


Near North developers Michael Appel of Avalon Housing and Teresa Welsh of the Three Oaks Group appeared before the Ann Arbor DDA today to ask for $500,000 in assistance for their project.

Ryan J. Stanton |

In a resolution of support, the board stated the DDA is committed to participating in projects that stimulate new, converted, or renovated housing with the goal of a "diverse and vibrant downtown residential base."

Avalon, a nonprofit housing corporation, is developing Near North with its for-profit partner, Three Oaks, as a mixed-use development. It will provide 25 apartments affordable to households with low incomes and 14 supportive housing apartments with project-based Section 8 rent subsidies.

Michael Appel, Avalon's executive director, said the partners plan to develop the project in two phases. The first includes the residential units and 1,800 square feet of offices. Phase II, contingent on greenway and related funding, involves acquisition and demolition of Summit Market and three houses in the floodway on East Summit Street, as well as relocation of the retail into new space built at Near North.

Appel said Avalon Housing is seeking HOME funds through the city and plans to apply for tax credit funding through the state by the end of February.

DDA officials said Near North technically will be outside the authority's jurisdiction, but the 39 new housing units are within the quarter-mile radius of the DDA-approved district within which it might provide DDA Housing Fund support. Many tenants who will reside in the apartments also will likely work, shop, or use the downtown for other purposes, officials said. The deal reached with Avalon today stipulates the DDA will provide $400,000 with an additional $50,000 if the project receives a Silver LEED certification - or an additional $100,000 if the project receives a Gold LEED certification.

The rating system for LEED - Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design - is a voluntary, consensus-based standard to support and certify green building design, construction and operations.

The DDA plans to provide the grant at the time the project receives its certificate of occupancy.

The total cost of the Near North project, including property acquisition, is $11 million. In addition to the DDA, Avalon is seeking funds from tax credits, the Michigan State Housing Development Authority and other sources.

DDA board member Sandi Smith, who also sits on the Ann Arbor City Council, called the DDA's support for the project a continuation of the city's search for units to fill some of the gaps left after 100 affordable housing units were lost when the old YMCA building downtown was demolished.

"These are far better units in that they do have supportive housing services," she said, "and so this is 14 in our tally."


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



Thu, Jun 10, 2010 : 9:16 a.m.

Where will the DDA get the $500,000 that it may award to Avalon? Will the money given to Avalon be designated for specific use? How much tax revenue is the project anticipated to generate for the City?


Thu, Jan 14, 2010 : 9:38 p.m.

I still find it incredibly irresponsible, elistist, dumb to the point of puking that 11 million bucks for 39 units isn't being discussed. 11 million bucks could house, cloth and feed a great many more people. $282,000 cost per unit. Totally disgusting. raising parking fees, double dipping on parking fees, talk of extending parking hours. Spending money on "public art" justifing it b/c it comes from its own "bucket" of money, for one building nothing short of $750,000, meanwhile cuting emergency services. the "low income" and homeless of ann arbor have it pretty darn good if not better than the average joe. 11 million bucks for 39 units. DISGUSTING. this just solidified it for me. I will now never ever give one penny to any homeless cause in this city.

pooh bear

Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 5:23 p.m.

I am still scratching my head as to why the DDA can offer money for projects not within the DDA boundaries. Can someone explain this?

The Picker

Sat, Jan 9, 2010 : 6:07 p.m.

As you can see this story has been bumped below the fold, much too controversial for their delicate sensibilities

The Picker

Sat, Jan 9, 2010 : 5:58 p.m.

Sorry 28,It will never happen. is a cheerleader for city gov't no matter how dysfunctional. They have ignored their traditional function as the watchdog of gov't in favor of being "liked" by the local politicos. Depth and controversy is not their style. They tend to lean toward fluff and pablum. The developers of this project are counting on being able to use, guilt for the less fortunate, to bully their way to fruition.


Sat, Jan 9, 2010 : 5:26 p.m.

To the staff of Why is this not a featured discussion? This is a lot of money Ann Arborites are losing to a bad project. This could make up some of the education budget. Please bump this up to the category of "important."


Sat, Jan 9, 2010 : 5:21 p.m.

The next logical step will be that the city will have to provide buses to shopping, doctors' appointment, court appearances, schools, babysitters, etc, while cutting back on basic services for others, including deep cuts in schools and trying to close the wonderful Senior Center. Or else private agencies will get public funding for these services for the low income and Section 8 beneficiaries. Is there a law in A2 that welfare recipients and low income people have to be provided housing? Because that is the law that was overturned in my former county, after it ruined our area of the county, which now is overrun with crime and poor schools. If it is not the law, then this is not the time to start this kind of project, when so much housing is already available in the state of Michigan. This is poorly conceived and planned, and will mostly benefit developers, and put another burden on taxpayers. Take the $500000 and give it to the schools, which very much need the funding to avoid cuts. Oh, and save the Senior Center, and fund it for a few years. Ann Arbor is run by a city council that is obviously owned by developers. Get a grip and fight this, and reallocate the funds for education and seniors! No new projects such as this joke of an endeavor!!!! Beware!!!!

The Picker

Sat, Jan 9, 2010 : 3:07 p.m.

I'm having a hard time understanding how one can collect welfare and still bear the expense of an automobile, why is'nt this project next to the bus station? I'm beginning to think that half the town are chumps for continuing to go to work and continuing to struggle on paying their own way. The other half are chumps for continuing to fund programs that enable people to fall into the poverty trap without a path to self sufficiency. I guess I believe in the fishing pole, not the fish approach.


Sat, Jan 9, 2010 : 11:50 a.m.

@the picker. I agree with you. This got approved because the city needs need to claim that is has provided affordable housing and this was proposed in partnership with Avalon. Avalon wants it because they need units - they will get 14 supportive units. Avalon gets pretty much anything it asks for because no one else is putting forward any proposals. There are dozens of problems with this project and council ignored every one of them and supported this for political gain. Parking will be underground.

The Picker

Sat, Jan 9, 2010 : 9:48 a.m.

If thats the case, Why this disfunctional location? It hardly seems appropriate for this use. Will there be parking? Its a long way from everything for the intended population.


Sat, Jan 9, 2010 : 9:37 a.m.

@ the picker - 3 Oaks is selling the land to the project partnership. They are not donating a penny and in fact will receive a substantial developer's fee as well as ownership of the party store building when/if it is built. So 10-15% of this DDA money will go directly into 3 Oaks' pocket. They have been trying to sell this land for years with no takers and have been losing money carrying the land.

The Picker

Fri, Jan 8, 2010 : 4:28 p.m.

Why was this site chosen? It's not very close to anything. Is Three Oaks donating the land? If so, I can understand the location.


Fri, Jan 8, 2010 : 10:44 a.m.

How much will the developers profiteer from this? And how are low income people going to shop downtown? Will they be buying lots of chocolate and high-priced memorabilia?


Thu, Jan 7, 2010 : 10:55 p.m.

back to my original comment about 11 million bucks for 39 units being one, excessive...two, a rip off. I just looked up that habitat for humanity budget to build a house is $35,000. A WHOLE HOUSE, and that they figure on those that get approved for them will pay $250 a month rent, which would be $3000 a year. For 11 million bucks they would be able to build 314 single family homes. OK, so figure half of that money would go to buy land, so 5 million bucks to build 157 homes. Housing that would be near shopping centers and jobs and public transportation. Not only that but an actual HOME that someone would be PROUD of and most likely GRATEFUL for and a REAL home to raise children in. 11 million dollars for 39 units is shameful and a slap in the face for those that create real housing for people that really need it.


Thu, Jan 7, 2010 : 6:54 p.m.

But why did you accept any section 8 or low cost housing at all? Are you required by law? Do you really want your neighborhood destroyed? Just tour section 8 housing in Detroit or Flint, and read the crime and school stats, and you will see what you are getting yourselves in for. Is Ann Arbor totally owned and controlled by developers now? In the East Coast county I used to live in, our area was plagued by low cost Section 8 housing. Homeowners went to court in an other area of the county and fought low cost housing being brought in and won. Guess what? Their property values and school test scores are still good. My old area stinks in these parameters, due to the onset of the low income and Section 8 renters. Get yourselves lawyered up and fight this.


Thu, Jan 7, 2010 : 5:51 p.m.

My previous comment got sent before I finished and a few sentences were mangled. The neighbors proposed a smaller building, much less expensive building that would house nearly as many people, but the developers insisted on this design with its excessive cost.


Thu, Jan 7, 2010 : 5:29 p.m.

DDA money comes from the taxes acquired within the DDA boundaries. This development is NOT within the DDA, so why are they even involved with this? Also, it is a mixed-used development. The liquor store is moving up the hill into the first floor of the building. Think of the energy savings not having to leave the building to get your liquor!


Thu, Jan 7, 2010 : 4:55 p.m.

In response to some comments above, the neighbors did not support this. We accepted a compromise we didn't like in exchange for a smaller building. The mayor and city council,(with the exception of Mike Anglin and Sabra Briere) were all for this and we had no choice but to negotiate or get stuck with something worse. If you have concerns about how the near downtown neighborhoods are being developed, contact the mayor or your council person. This property is clearly not downtown, and the land cost is only a small part of the development cost. The reason they are spending $11 million dollars is to increase their developer fees. Avalon and 3 Oaks are entitled to take a maximum of 15% of the cost of the project, and EACH PARTY will pocket somewhere between 500-750K of public money in developer fees. This is cash they walk away with. Avalon will use it well to fund their organization, of course. But to claim that land or building costs REQUIRE these units to be this expensive is plain dishonest. The neighbord proposed a smaller building that would cost less and house We could have had a smaller buildi While politicians like Heftje and Smith would love to claim these units as replacements for the YMCA units - they are NOT because they will not be in downtown. Property outside the DDA boundaries is zoned differently, etc. and different regulations apply.


Thu, Jan 7, 2010 : 11:58 a.m.

I had a comment removed due to mentioning violence too graphically. I moved from my former home when a 15 year old stabbed to death a 17 year old in front of the "mixed use housing", which was partly moderate, low and Section 8 housing. This type of crime was unheard of in my former area until low income and Section 8 housing was allowed. When qualifying for the apartments was based on a middle class income, there was virtually no crime. Once it became low income and Section 8, there were regular shootings. The formerly diverse, middle class area with good test scores went down the tubes. It is now full of crime and prostitution and fast food restaurants. We did not want to move, but it got too dangerous. We had to have an alarm on at all times, after our house and many others were broken into in broad daylight. Please do not ruin A2 with Section 8 housing. And please don't delete this post. It is the story of my life and it is true.

Life in Ypsi

Thu, Jan 7, 2010 : 10:13 a.m.

I live in Ypsi and am sick and tired of people always wanting to dump the problems and people they find undesirable on us. Yes, I agree low income areas have too much crime, etc. However, if low income housing was not clustered in massive amounts in few areas I believe there would be a lot less problems. Building small units that blend in the neighborhoods is much more effective like Avalon is doing.


Thu, Jan 7, 2010 : 9:24 a.m.

Hanna Rosin at The Atlantic Online published an article in 2008 about the correlation of Section 8 housing to crime in Memphis: Here is a partial summary: "About six months ago, they decided to put a hunch to the test. Janikowski merged his computer map of crime patterns with Bettss map of Section 8 rentals...... the match was near-perfect. On the merged map, dense violent-crime areas are shaded dark blue, and Section 8 addresses are represented by little red dots. All of the dark-blue areas are covered in little red dots, like bursts of gunfire. The rest of the city has almost no dots."


Thu, Jan 7, 2010 : 9:05 a.m.

Why do you want section 8 housing in downtown Ann Arbor?? You are looking for such trouble. How did nearby residents let this go ahead? You are looking for crime and decreased value in your houses and school test scores going down. Look for many people crammed in each unit, with lots of noise, drug trade, and violence. How are you then defining the "low-income" (vs "no-income" Section 8) components? Will you require proof of income? What if that person quits or gets fired from his/her job? Will it then go to Section 8, or will they be evicted (doubtful.) Why oh why with Ypsi and Detroit and Flint, etc with so much Section 8 housing, do you want to bring that to A2? Just go talk to people who have Section 8s in their town. My entire neighborhood elsewhere was ruined when nearby apartment complexes became available for Section 8 and low income housing. We stayed on for years, with increasing crime, until our house was broken into in broad daylight, and my family threatened. The Section 8 apartments were a center for drug trade and violence. There were shootings and deaths in the apartment complexes. Please don't fall for this. You will be so sorry. You will need a lot more police, too, and A2 is cutting these budgets.


Thu, Jan 7, 2010 : 8:29 a.m.

It comes down to do you believe living in Ann Arbor is a privilege or a right. Privilege/Right issue aside, I strongly think lower income housing needs to be near services they need; Large grocery store, affordable restaurants. This does NOT describe downtown, which if that is where they work- all buses lead to downtown.


Thu, Jan 7, 2010 : 7:24 a.m.

If you want more of something- subsidize it. If you want more people on the government dole then create more programs for the disadvantaged. God forbid that people qualify to live someplace based on their own abilities- that's practically a throwback to the foundation on which this country was built. Let the new nanny state save us all!


Thu, Jan 7, 2010 : 7:10 a.m.

I don't get it, low income housing is going to help downtown? Regardless of the merits of state sponsored housing, surely this is outside of the charter of this branch of government. We really are going "urban", Cabrini Green style (over the top intentionally here, don't bother to comment :-) ) But really, if DDA has got an extra $500K it sounds like it is money that needs to be returned to the taxpayers (and parking meter feeders.) @Myopinion - good point about clustering the housing so that services can be more effectively provided to help people. Weren't there a bunch of houses for sale across from Fingerle's last year? Maybe we could find another cluster like that and save the single family homes for the neighbors. $11 million could buy a nice group of houses in any variety of neighborhoods in town...


Wed, Jan 6, 2010 : 11:28 p.m.

Also, you would think that a man asking for $500,000 in free money could at least put on a clean shirt........preferably a stain-free shirt and tie.

Rooted in A2

Wed, Jan 6, 2010 : 11:24 p.m.

I have great faith in Michael Appel and Avalon housing. Avalon housing is one of the most effective providers of supportive housing for those in our community who have difficulty advocating for their own needs. They deserve a big thank you from Ann Arborites for the work they do in our community and support they provide for those struggling with so many challenges.


Wed, Jan 6, 2010 : 11:20 p.m.

Three Oaks owns the land. They bought it a couple of years ago, and once they couldn't get any private development approved they decided to team up with Avalon to save a bad investment. I have no idea how they were able to get the neighborhood residents to agree to this. All the homes on Fourth St behind it are in the $600-700K range, and I see no chance of adjacent low-income housing allowing for any type of value increase.


Wed, Jan 6, 2010 : 11:04 p.m.

Myopinion has a good point...who owns the land that the group is purchasing? I can't locate the original article.


Wed, Jan 6, 2010 : 8:58 p.m.

I live next to a Avalon unit and trust me!!!! Low income people have money to party on. More persons reside in units than what is on section 8 in the home. More the people, the more money for the residents. And Avalon asks for a hand out and work done by volunteers!!!!!


Wed, Jan 6, 2010 : 8:33 p.m.

I am all for affordable and supportive housing, wherever it is needed, but the idea that low-income residents will "work, shop, or use the downtown for other purposes" isn't realistic. It is just a justification.

Ryan J. Stanton

Wed, Jan 6, 2010 : 6:42 p.m.

A figure was cited by Sandi Smith today that it will cost an estimated $5,000 per year per individual for supportive housing services.


Wed, Jan 6, 2010 : 6:28 p.m.

Well, part of the expense of this is the price of the land. They are not spending $282,000 just on construction costs. Avalon also provides social support, which is sort of hard to do at 39 separate locations. I happen to live near an Avalon development. It used to be a run down apartment building that accepted Title 8 tenants. Since Avalon took over, the buildings are in better shape and the most problematic tenants are gone. I might prefer that this apartment complex was not near me, but I think Avalon is a very helpful partner.


Wed, Jan 6, 2010 : 5:53 p.m.

11 million dollars/39 units equals $282,000 and change per unit. You can BUY more than 39 houses in this city for 11 million dollars. What a waste of money!


Wed, Jan 6, 2010 : 4:59 p.m.

Hey, guess where they have affordable housing? In Ypsilanti, where I live. If the DDA will give me the $500,000, I can afford to live in Ann Arbor, too. I'll need no further money. I promise.