More affordable housing is needed to truly support ‘a city for everyone’

More affordable housing is needed to truly support ‘a city for everyone’
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Mayor Mike Duggan promises a “city for everyone.”

But getting from “here” to “there” in a city that has more than 10,000 homeless and a whopping one third of residents living below the poverty level is admittedly going to be a challenging task.

In order to be successful, Duggan must bridge the gap between the “haves” and the “have nots.”

And that gap is “widening,” says Tahirih Ziegler, an affordable housing expert and executive director of Detroit LISC, a leading non-profit that has committed more than $200 million to Detroit affordable housing and community development initiatives in the past year alone.

Mayor Mike Duggan

The mayor has vowed not to support any renovation project that will displace low-income residents, and has worked to keep low-income residents in government-subsidized units likely to go to market-rate without intervention. Duggan also has issued a 20 percent mandate for affordable housing financed by the city.

“Our principle is this: one city for all of us,” says Duggan.

There are some glimmers of hope in that regard.

Thirty-eight percent of the development identified in TheHUB’s recent, exclusive report of $594 million in new homes for District 5 were reserved for affordable housing, nearly double the mayor’s goal. High-profile efforts, like the recently announced $32 million Sugar Hill development in Midtown that set aside 25 percent of units for residents earning 50 to 80 percent of the area median income are a good start, Ziegler says.

“There’s always going to be limited resources. We’ve got to find better ways to utilize what we have.” -Tahirih Ziegler, Executive Director, Detroit LISC

“”I think we can do better as a city to address affordability,” she says in a recent broadcast of WXYT 1270AM’s Small Talk with Mark S. Lee.

Although Detroit has moved the needle on affordable housing, Detroit LISC’s executive director Tahirih Ziegler says the city and its development partners must move faster. Photo Paul Engstrom

The city and its development partners must move faster, be more strategic and do even more to accommodate its lowest-income residents, whose earnings disqualify them from occupancy in affordable units allotted to new developments, Ziegler says.

Detroit LISC is one of the more visible advocates working to bridge the affordability gap in Detroit.

“It’s complicated,” says Ziegler. “There’s always going to be limited resources. We’ve got to find better ways to utilize what we have.”

Despite increased interest from developers and the city’s administration in neighborhood housing, Ziegler says there’s a shortage of development dollars, particularly those targeted for affordable housing units for families earning less than $25,000 a year.

Detroit LISC looks to the city for cues on where to best leverage its fill-in funding, used to augment private and public sector development, she says.

The aim is to finance less profitable developments that might not reach the brick-and-mortar stage without the funding support of organizations like Detroit LISC and other community development financial institutions.

“We’ve got to figure out how to organize ourselves and take back our (neighborhoods),” adds Ziegler, who believes city residents also have an important role to play in that regard.

She says organized, committed residents can have a big impact on their neighborhoods, noting that neighborhood patrols, board-ups and other grassroots block club efforts have sustained many city blocks, making them more desirable for investments.

Residents need to remove blight from their own homes, too, she says. One way Detroit LISC helps is by providing homeowners with 10-year loans of up to $25,000 through a zero-percent-interest Home Repair Loan Program supported by the City of Detroit, Detroit LISC and Bank of America.

Since its inception, the program has helped 500 homeowners upgrade and repair their properties. Detroit-based and minority-owned contractors are being sought to help to provide services, which in turn, help support neighborhood job creation. If you are a contractor who provides home improvement services, Ziegler’s team wants to meet you.

“The demand for services is increasing,” says Ziegler. “There’s more work than contractors.”

That’s a sign that points towards a city for everyone.

Editor’s Note: Click the link below to hear Tahirih Ziegler’s Father’s Day interview on “Small Talk with Mark S. Lee.” The show airs at 8 a.m. Sundays on WXYT 1270AM and is streamed on cbsdetroit.com

 

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