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Posted on Sat, Mar 16, 2013 : 3:33 p.m.

DDA's support in efforts to end homelessness stand out in community

By Guest Column

The Washtenaw Housing Alliance appreciates the many ways the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority has been an important partner in our community’s efforts to end homelessness by investing in affordable housing. The WHA has long understood that successfully developing affordable housing in our community of expensive housing and tight markets, means we need every possible partner at the table—nonprofits, private developers, city and county government and, we are pleased to say, the Ann Arbor DDA.


Baker Commons, as it looked in October 2012, before a nearly $3 million grant from the DDA provided funds for a new roof and energy efficiency upgrades.

Ryan J. Stanton |

The WHA understands that our partners join us in our efforts to end homelessness because this will benefit the entire community. We are pleased the DDA understands these community benefits and has also been forthright in articulating how affordable housing and ending homelessness benefit the downtown.

The DDA has recognized that people with nowhere to live can create challenges to the atmosphere of downtown and that while panhandling and homelessness are not synonymous; it is not healthy for downtown, or for our vulnerable citizens, for people to be living on the street. And the DDA has also joined our community in sharing a goal of creating integrated, diverse neighborhoods, including the downtown and near-downtown residential areas.

Since 1999, the DDA has been the most significant source of local public support for affordable housing. During a period when the city’s budget severely limited contributions to the Ann Arbor Affordable Housing Trust Fund, the DDA invested $2,380,438 to help develop and sustain the affordable housing stock in and immediately adjacent to downtown. This complemented the $1,799,726 in local funds invested by the City between 1999 and 2010.

The DDA has invested in projects as diverse as Baker Commons owned by the Ann Arbor Housing Commission; support for Courthouse Square, an affordable housing development for seniors in the heart of downtown; Avalon’s scattered site supportive housing in and near the downtown; and Dawn Farm’s Chapin Street transitional housing project.

These projects have been critical to our ability to serve those with the greatest need for housing in our community. Whether it is roof repairs, energy upgrades to keep costs low, or general rehabilitation, the DDA has provided invaluable leverage that allows our housing providers to bring in other money to our community to protect their investments and keep people safe and well housed.

We are grateful to the members of the DDA Board and staff for their commitment to helping the most vulnerable members of our community. We all know that together, we can end homelessness.

Julie Steiner is the executive director of the Washtenaw Housing Alliance.



Mon, Mar 18, 2013 : 2:01 a.m.

The old YMCA had 60 units of housing, not 400. This is how myths get started. The building was falling apart and the housing was substandard, so the city demolished it with the help of the DDA.


Mon, Mar 18, 2013 : 12:27 a.m.

Yes there are people who won't let themselves be helped, but no, not all the Ann Arbor homeless fall into that group. I find it strange to read praise for the DDA's influence on low-income housing stock downtown, especially since their intimate involvement with the demolition of the YMCA, which had 400 units of such housing. In a city with as strong a recycle-and-rehabilitate ethos as Ann Arbor, the DDA is strangely out of tune with its emphasis on brand-new, big-buck capital intensive construction.


Sun, Mar 17, 2013 : 10:07 p.m.

I see many similarities between DDA and any large out of control US government agency (EPA, DOE, you name it). I am so glad that A2 and DDA can't print, or borrow $.40 of every dollar they spend...I do believe they would if they could. Does anyone else see the similarity? At the federal level, the "Rs" are fighting the "Ds" to rein in spending. In Ann Arbor the "Ds" are fighting the "Ds" to rein in spending, only the "Ds" don't realize they are following "R" philosophy.


Sun, Mar 17, 2013 : 8:59 p.m.

Vote the DDA out of office!

Jack Eaton

Sun, Mar 17, 2013 : 4:23 p.m.

Since 1999, "the DDA invested $2,380,438 to help develop and sustain the affordable housing stock in and immediately adjacent to downtown." Every year the DDA diverts millions of dollars from the City, the County, Washtenaw Community College, the Ann Arbor Library and AATA. Yet, the average amount the DDA spent on affordable housing is less than 1/4 million per year. The tax revenues the DDA skims from the general revenue of the City and County could have been spent on affordable housing without the existence of the DDA. Unelected officials making spending decisions that should be made by elected officials that voters can hold accountable is not a substitute for good public policy.

Sam S Smith

Sun, Mar 17, 2013 : 11:28 p.m.

Will you please run for city council again or better yet mayor?


Sun, Mar 17, 2013 : 4:19 p.m.

The caption on the Baker Commons photo is incorrect. It states that the DDA invested 3 million dollars in Baker Commons. I was under the impression that most of that $3 million for renovations didn't even come from the came from the Federal govt, from HUD. The DDA kicked in about 300K. What's the story on this?


Sun, Mar 17, 2013 : 2:38 p.m.

The DDA is a club of down-towny business owners that have control of too many tax dollars. They advocate for things I pay for that benefit downtown, but not the larger community. For example, they want all of us to pay for a new library to bring customers to their businesses. If they want a new library that bad, they should pay for it! Downsize the DDA and get my tax dollar back to work providing services, or better yet, to lower taxes in Ann Arbor.

Jay Thomas

Sun, Mar 17, 2013 : 11:22 p.m.

Being in favor of a new library shows how out of touch they are. Just because you are in business does not mean that those of us in favor of free enterprise will support you in wasteful spending.


Sun, Mar 17, 2013 : 12:41 p.m.

Yes, the DDA is very generous with our misappropriated tax dollars. End the DDA!


Sun, Mar 17, 2013 : 12:28 p.m.

Oh please. Talk about a sinking elephant brownosing to save its life-support whale. Sure. Look how generous the DDA is with other people's money. And public land, too. Generous mismanagement of public funds and property, however, is unacceptable. So, alliance, how many houses for the homeless have actually been built over the number now being demolished in Ann Arbor ? After the DDA goes belly up this fall and their cronies depart, and a truly livable downtown finally emerges from our new City Council and their new Planning Commission, perhaps the profitable non-profit homeless problem will be solved.


Sun, Mar 17, 2013 : 11:29 a.m.

"End homelessness?" Does that mean we're going to end the penchant for some to engage in cyclical, self-destructive behavior despite any aid given to them? Or are we just here to literally house the homeless?

Nicholas Urfe

Sun, Mar 17, 2013 : 3:46 a.m.

Because it is the A2 DDA, I can't help but think it isn't just their intent to help the homeless. I suspect they want to help the homeless get cars, so they can charge them for parking.


Sun, Mar 17, 2013 : 12:39 p.m.

No, they want the homeless to have homes near downtown so the merchants will have access to cheap labor.


Sun, Mar 17, 2013 : 2:22 a.m.

Interesting article. My question to everyone is, just how MUCH of our tax dollars go to support public housing? Are we NOT enabling these people to just keep living off of the public trough? I see NO end in sight. Since 1999, the DDA has been the most significant source of local public support for affordable housing. During a period when the city's budget severely limited contributions to the Ann Arbor Affordable Housing Trust Fund, the DDA invested $2,380,438 to help develop and sustain the affordable housing stock in and immediately adjacent to downtown. This complemented the $1,799,726 in local funds invested by the City between 1999 and 2010.

Tom Whitaker

Sun, Mar 17, 2013 : 1:02 p.m.

"During a period when the city's budget severely limited contributions to the Ann Arbor Affordable Housing Trust Fund..." Keep in mind that if the DDA did not exist, more revenue would be going directly to the City, which in turn, could provide the money directly to the Housing Trust Fund. Perhaps we could afford to do more if we cut out the middle man?


Sun, Mar 17, 2013 : 1:52 a.m.

SWith all these associations and groups and companies and nonprofits and not for profits and alliances, I'd guess there's a pretty wide dispersal of money that doesn't go directly to doing the most good. I think anyone doing business with Avalon needs to get some answers about how they're handling the North Main debacle and how they will prevent that from happening again. Wasn't over a million lost on that whole thing? 2 million? Could've fed/housed a lot of people with that. Is someone in charge of making sure there's actually a payoff on all tis money being spent? With these figures in the millions I'm seeing, seems like eventually you could have kind of a palacial estate built up, at least big enough for the entirety of Camp Take Notice.


Sat, Mar 16, 2013 : 10:14 p.m.

According to HUD. homeless clients report a variety of problems with mental or emotional conditions, alcohol use, or use of illegal drugs. 38 percent report problems with alcohol use; 26 percent report problems with drug use, and 39 percent report mental health problems. Affordable housing is only one of many problems. The ability to assist those who do not desire to be assisted, is limited.


Sat, Mar 16, 2013 : 7:54 p.m.

I tip my hat to everybody who works to help shelter the homeless. I know the people of Avalon Housing are doing just that and also the people in the Office of Community Development in addition to the others mentioned above.


Sat, Mar 16, 2013 : 7:43 p.m.

Just think: if you could feed a homeless person for a dollar per meal, Susan Pollay could feed three hundred people each month, if she gave up her city-sanctioned monthly car allowance!

Jay Thomas

Sun, Mar 17, 2013 : 11:17 p.m.

Bob and Brad, you guys are funny. Most city employees do not live in Ann Arbor... and yet you expect them to do all of that. :)


Sun, Mar 17, 2013 : 1:02 p.m.

Drive downtown? Surely you jest. They should buy her a Go!Pass and she should be riding that bus each and every day. That's what they want everyone else to do.

Basic Bob

Sun, Mar 17, 2013 : 1:01 a.m.

Seriously, she should drive downtown from her home and park. Or simply move downtown and never leave. That's what DDA is all about.

Angry Moderate

Sat, Mar 16, 2013 : 10:32 p.m.

Do you get a car allowance ordmad?


Sat, Mar 16, 2013 : 10:31 p.m.

So should do her job for free?