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Posted on Mon, Jan 11, 2010 : 10:34 p.m.

Reorganization, outsourcing recommended to sustain struggling Ann Arbor Housing Commission

By Ryan J. Stanton

The public body that oversees more than half of the affordable housing stock in the city of Ann Arbor may need an extreme makeover to remain viable.

A representative from an Ann Arbor management consultant firm gave a report to city officials tonight, recommending a reorganization and partial outsourcing of services to sustain the struggling Ann Arbor Housing Commission.


Jayne Miller

"By not supporting the Housing Commission, it's really in my view a detriment to affordable housing," Jayne Miller, the city's Community Services Area administrator, told City Council members at tonight's working session.

Consultant Kerry Laycock said he looked at the future viability and sustainability of the Housing Commission and found the majority of the public housing stock is outdated and poorly maintained. He also said supportive services are "limited and not meeting the current needs of residents."

According to Laycock's report - on behalf of the firm Schumaker & Co. - the Housing Commission acts as an "isolated agency with limited involvement in community initiatives" and "operates in a state of constant instability."

Housing Commission Chairman Alan Levy and the consultant agreed that's largely because HUD consistently has underfunded housing programs. And HUD's funding decisions often are made later in the year, leaving the city little time to react to adjust spending.

However, Laycock said the city also has a bad track record of securing funding from sources other than HUD. That has left the city unable to provide badly-needed support services to meet growing needs from residents and has deferred important maintenance and modernization of the housing stock, he said.

"So it's really sort of been scrambling to make do with the funds that are available, and in a sense, falling further and further behind," Laycock said of the Housing Commission. "When we looked, there was no evidence of a planning process. The Housing Commission board has focused - and for good reason over the past two years - on the operational challenges of the organization to the neglect of future planning and strategy development."

Laycock said Ann Arbor is about 10 to 20 years behind benchmark housing commissions in terms of redevelopment and modernization of the public housing stock. He said public housing in Ann Arbor lacks proper management and the resources to maintain an aging housing stock. Specifically, he said, the city's Section 8 program currently has insufficient oversight.

The consultant found that the Housing Commission - "sort of forgotten" - may not be sustainable as an independent entity and may require a closer relationship with the city.

One of the consultant's recommendations is to more clearly define qualifications for future Housing Commission appointees and strengthen the selection process.

The Housing Commission's governing board is a five-member body appointed by the mayor. Council Member Tony Derezinski, D-2nd Ward, who serves as a liaison to the board, agreed at tonight's working session that the last year has been challenging for the Housing Commission.

"We're not out of the woods," he said.

Before concluding his report, Laycock offered five strategic objectives for the City Council to consider, which include:

• Rehabilitating and redeveloping public housing properties. • Expanding funding beyond HUD. • Strengthening resident support services. • Strengthening management oversight. • Improving internal efficiencies and process performance.

To achieve those goals, the consultant recommends the city hire an executive director with development and financing experience. That person would focus on strategic planning, major rehabilitation projects and redevelopment.

Laycock also recommends having a full-time deputy director to focus on operations and grant writing, and another program manager to specifically deal with Section 8 housing.

Another recommendation - one Laycock acknowledged has the potential to be controversial - is the outsourcing of the Housing Commission's maintenance services. By doing so, the consultant claims it could substantially improve facilities management, improve maintenance services and reduce unit turn-around time - all at the same or reduced cost.

According to the report, the maintenance overhaul would mean the elimination of two temporary positions and the transfer of four union workers to other city jobs.

In all, the staffing changes could cost the Housing Commission an additional $228,163 beyond the current budget. The consultant is recommending making the changes and beginning an executive director search process immediately.

Miller said since the city is committed to providing affordable housing options in Ann Arbor, it should take actions to preserve the existing stock. She said Ann Arbor's housing commission oversees more than 350 public affordable housing units. In addition, it supplies 1,200 subsidy vouchers that people use to pay rent at private landlord properties.

Levy said how HUD was funded and managed under the last half of the Bush administration was "painfully difficult," and communities like Ann Arbor still are dealing with the repercussions of decisions made then. He said it's essential to the future health of the Housing Commission and the residents that it serves for the city to "get off the dime" that it's on and consider the consultant's recommendations.

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


Ryan J. Stanton

Sat, Jan 23, 2010 : 12:32 p.m.

A correction was made to this article: The Housing Commissions governing board is a five-member body (not six) appointed by the mayor. Tony Derezinski, though he serves as a liaison from City Council to the Housing Commission and is listed as a board member on the city's Web site, does not vote on matters before the board.

Ryan J. Stanton

Sun, Jan 17, 2010 : 10:27 p.m.

According to the consultant's presentation, HUD funds public housing at about 82 percent, leaving an 18 percent funding gap.


Fri, Jan 15, 2010 : 10:59 p.m.

"Baker Commons' demographics are hardly conductive to crime, not many 80 yr old crack heads." -- You obviously have no clue as to who lives here.

The Picker

Wed, Jan 13, 2010 : 8:47 a.m.

Tru2, Point 1 AAHC has been a disaster way before the Bush and the Neo's left office. Your argument is tired and and you should seek treatment for your B.D.S. 2. Baker Commons' demographics are hardly conductive to crime, not many 80 yr old crack heads. Also many people here in town live in 100+ yr old homes that may be better now than 100 yrs ago, they have self interest and take care of their nest. Please enlighten us of these "Benchmark Housing Commissions" that do such a superior job. Hopefully they are not the "Slums of Detroit" where HUD has been working its magic for much longer than in A2. 3.Citing Paul Krugman as an authority? Please! In spite of earning exceptional wages for decades from his celebrity and writing, he still feeds at the public trough through his rent controlled and subsidized apartment, Is that what supportive housing is for? Europe, When they start carrying their own water in world affairs, they will feel the crush of their welfare state. A very nice luxury until other peoples money dries up. The solution lies in my earlier post.


Wed, Jan 13, 2010 : 8:07 a.m. must have had blinders on over the years. The HC has usually flown under the radar and been protected by our democratic councils and bailed out by the taxpayer.


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 9:34 p.m.

Yes, that's an option...but one may be so self-centered that one's next of kin won't want the largesse. I guess it's a choice between helping and hording. Will that attitude make me rich? Probably not monetarily.


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 5:57 p.m.

Brad, You are aware it is possible to leave money to next of kin, correct?


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 5:04 p.m.

Problems with Public Housing in Ann Arbor are certainly nothing new. Please see for a history of Public Housing in Ann Arbor--from 1965, when the Housing Commission was established to 1970, when the first residents moved in. I was motivated to research this history since Maple Meadows is part of our subdivision (West Liberty Heights). Several concerned residents organized a meeting with town officials which occurred on May 17, 2007. The meeting was reported on in an article by John Mulcahy, entitled "Complaints about Maple Meadows Ann Arbor Housing Commission told it's not doing enough," which appeared in the Thursday, May 17, 2007, Ann Arbor News. Problems discussed included "chronic drug dealing, gambling, fighting, noise, and other problems..." Keep in mind that it is a minority of residents who cause most of these problems. Several years later, I hear similar complaints from people who live adjacent to Maple Meadows. If Ann Arbor is really committed to providing "affordable housing," taking care of issues related to that goal should be given some priority (over say, extravagant spending on water features). If having an agency like Avalon Housing would help, perhaps that should be looked into. While I have not seen the inside of Maple Meadows, the outside looks ok. Unless units are heavily damaged, or unsafe, the priority in spending should be geared towards resident services. Having an apartment in Public Housing is a privilege. With that in mind, the selection process should be more stringent. Signs that say drugs are not allowed should mean what they say. Video cameras should be installed and maintained. Since Avalon has a good track record for managing low-income housing, I am sure they could offer suggestions on how to manage these properties.


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 3:26 p.m.

need workers more then managers imo. what are the managers going to be fixing up the house/apts to make them habitable? I thought we wanted to employ people in michigan...


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 2:43 p.m.

Interesting. Colonial Square is mentioned in a photo as Public Housing. It isn't and has never been. We are a Market Rate Co-operative. The original mortgage was thru HUD and has been paid off. We are self-managed and have an elected Board of Directors.However, there are 4 or 5 units on Platt road that were the models for Colonial Square when they were originally built - they are indeed Public Houseing. There have been times when our staff has picked up the area and cut their grass because when people drive by they see it as a reflection to Colonial Square with out realizing they are not a part of us. You should get your facts straight.

John Stacy

Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 2:30 p.m.

Your use of the file photo is misleading. Colonial Squares has no affiliation with the Housing Commission. It is a market rate cooperative bought into and owned by its private homeowners. The file photo should be corrected. John Stacy, Board of Directors, Colonial Squares Cooperative

Seasoned Cit

Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 2:18 p.m.

Does it make sense to consider contracting with Avalon to run the whole mess? Seems to me they have done a much better job of providing low-cost housing than the City ever has, even when it gets required payoff from developers who have to include a certain % of units for low-cost housing..or pay a "fee" to the City.


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 1:53 p.m.

First, HUD consistently has underfunded housing programs by 82 percent gives the wrong impression. The Consultant said HUD funded $.82 on the dollar. To me, 82% underfunded means $.18 on the dollar. Second, the Consultant did not estimate costs for renovating and/or rebuilding. The additional $225k/year is just for staff. Are there estimates available? Third, questions from Councilmembers Higgins, Teall, and Rapundalo were curiously absent; although, I might have missed them. Last, the City has this responsibility. Its easy to feed your inner Scrooge and say dont spend any more money, but you cant take it with you. Why not buy the goose and make somebody's life more fulfilling? Unfortunately, many dont, so the City must bridge the gap of decency.

Vivienne Armentrout

Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 12:09 p.m.

I haven't seen the report, but it is alarming to think of the city adding 3 (5?) new managers at a time that services and ground-level employees are being cut. The article doesn't make it clear where the money for the salaries would come from - the HUD funding or the general fund? In either case, it does appear to be overkill in this time of cross-training and "smart" operations.


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 12:07 p.m.

Sorry Glenn, but beg to differ on Larcom bldg. It has been junk for at least 25 years. Outdated, poor design and an infrastucture so cobbled together over the years it is a joke. Bob Lewis worked valliantly over the years to keep that building functional. Problem is replacement is 25 years late.

glenn thompson

Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 11:48 a.m.

The city does not maintain anything. If you maintain things they just keep working and there is less reason for grandiose projects. One of the justifications for the new municipal center was that the roof of Larcom leaked. The rapid deterioration of the Stadium Bridge occurred because water got to reinforcing steel, probably as a result of poor maintenance of the road surface. This will continue as long as Council continues to be willing to spend millions on new grandiose 'solutions' while never requiring that they actually work.


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 11:35 a.m.

If you out source maitenance all you should need is a quasi manager and a section 8 person to monitor the wait list. The City's CDBG program since eliminated had staff managing a component of the section 8. They were at some point switched to the HC or at least had offices their. Where is the County and MSHDA in all of this. Didn't the county get the community development component from the City? MSHDA used to have section 8 prescence also. All anyone need do is look at the past and you will see that solving the problems of the HC has been a task that has plagued the city for at least 30 years. Hands are tied by rules and regulations. Almost impossible to evict unruly and destructive tenants. In the 80's portable section 8 subsidies came about to give tenants the freedom to choose where they live. The HC's kept subsidies tied to units. There needs to be a way to take these section 8 subsidies away from the units and make them portable thereby getting the private sector more involved. Get managing housing out of the hands of local governing bodies. They cannot do many failed attempts does it take to see this.


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 11:14 a.m.

How about putting some of this blame on Elizabeth Lindsley? After all, SHE was the ED for 14- 15 years. I often wonder what it was exactly that Jayne Miller does. AAHC currently has those three positions filled. As for getting rid of maintenance personnel, they hardly do their jobs anyway. It sometimes takes weeks to get something fixed. I've learned to fix my own things instead of waiting on AAHC.

Ryan J. Stanton

Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 11:06 a.m.

Here are the consultant's recommended salaries for positions mentioned: Executive director $84,417 (plus $40,091 a year in benefits) Deputy director - $74,646 (plus $36,268 a year in benefits) Section 8 program manager - $46,072 (plus $26,987 a year in benefits) The consultant also is recommending making two interim site managers regular full-time residency managers. Each would make $46,072 a year plus $26,987 in benefits. The consultant also recommends making an existing accounting clerk a financial analyst for public housing and adding a second financial analyst for Section 8 who would make $46,107 a year plus $26,999 in benefits.


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 10:30 a.m.

a2roots makes a valid point -- vouchers would be much more effective than trying to manage such a large housing stock. The city can barely manage streets and sidewalks, why think it can manage a complex operation such as rental housing?


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 9:37 a.m.

It is and has been a fact for many years that the City is responsible for the worst housing in the City. There have been millions spent on rehabbing public housing units over the years. If someone were to check you may find that Ann Arbor's public housing has cost the taxpayer a ridiculous amount of money per unit. Many times good money spent for a short term benefit. Many reasons abound: poor initial construction, poor maintenance, lax management and residents that destroy their surroundings. At some point it does not make sense to continue to put more good money into an incurable problem. Over the years the positions mentioned were filled. Will refilling them make a difference? Unlikely. Prior to rehabbing anything there needs to be criteria established pertaining to cost per unit and what is justified. There needs to be clear specifications followed regarding what work should be done. It goes without saying that it would be cost prohibitive on a per unit basis to rehab many of the buildings. Inevitably living units would have to be removed from the housing stock forcing tenants out. However, if the tenants are currently on Section 8 why not convert their subsidy to a portable subsidy so they can move? This has probably already occurred to some extent because it is unlikely that 100% of the public housing units are fit for living. Unfortunately the saga of the HC continues. These are issues that have plagued the HC since the 70's. It just may be time to put it out of it's misery and everyone elses.


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 9:11 a.m.

The dynamic duo strike again... Jayne Miller and Kerry Laycock. This was the same pair that created havoc and chaos in Planning and Development Services. How much was Laycock paid for his documentation of the obvious? He gets to walk away with his consultant fees and Miller walks to Huron Metroparks. Some of the local property management companies outsource their maintenance. If the condition of the majority of student housing in Ann Arbor is any indication, their record is hardly any better than Housing Commission management, so how is privatization going to be any better? City Hall turned a blind eye to the HC for the last two decades. Folks, it's the "Starve the Beast" attitude. Don't pay attention until it's too late, then say that nothing can be done and it will cost too much money, so kill it, sell it off.,br> This is Roger Fraser's management style. Look at the evidence from PADS to the FD and now this.

The Picker

Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 8:37 a.m.

Get off the dime? Really! I'm sure that more money has been thrown at these units per sq' than any private landlord could afford at the current rent levels. Doesn't the A2 housing dept. inspect these unit regularly? Sell off all these units to a private entity and let it seek its own level and we will see whats affordable. orrr Maybe the DDA should just bail it out.


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 7:01 a.m.

So, let me get this straight, the HC could save over $200K by elimininating those maintenance workers, but NEEDS to hire three management level employees (executive director, FT deputy director, and a program manager)? Can't one person be found for these three positions? I'm sure the total salary of the three will exceed the $200K that would be saved by privatizing maintenance. It's probably also a given that the consultant, Laycock has billed a 1/4 of this amount already., bridges, other infrastructe needs....