Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Runaway Train

I'm turning in an application to the mayor for a position on the City of Ann Arbor's Housing Policy Board. To coin an analogy, this board is to Affordable Housing money as the Planning Commission is to site plans and project recommendations. The HPB makes recommendations to the City Council on how to deal with developers and allocate (and extract) affordable housing.

I call on Mayor Hieftje to name me to the board despite my calling him out last night at the city council meeting for not wanting to "shove things down neighborhoods' throats." And despite my knocking the idea of a pedestrian mall, which was abandoned by Kalamazoo -- the first city in the country to develop one -- in 1997. And I hope that the Mayor will live up to his stated desire to get more students involved in city government.

I will keep you posted, and I may also try to get a viewpoint piece in the Ann Arbor News on my house moving idea. Also, did you know there's a program called "Ward Talk" that airs once a month on CTV? Gonna have to start checking that out.


Anonymous Murph said...

I like that you're talking whole-process in the edit to proto-campaign-2. Let me think a little further along that line.

If I'm a developer, and I'm asked "consider moving this house?", well, I probably have zero experience in moving houses, and am a little reluctant to try new things. But even if I look into it, and find that it'll cost about $50-100k per house to move it (including closing streets, taking down utility lines, etc), I'll still need a place to put it.

And there's where I predict a real headache. Once the developer agrees to move the house, there's a whole new process that opens up. Will people scream if it's not put downtown? Will people scream if it's moved out of its current historic district? Will people scream if you try to put an affordable housing unit next to them? Can you even find land to buy in any of these places? How many more hearings, tablings, and rounds of negotiations will I have to go through? Better to make an extremely high estimate of the value of not moving them and just get the City to tell me to tear the darned things down.

What you'll need to do is eliminate this fear process for the developer. You'll need to make "how to move a house 101" clear. You'll need to line up information on all of the city types who will need to be involved in giving permits for various street closings and stuff. You'll need to look into contours - I'm betting you can't move a house across Huron at any point, or down South State or South Main, or across the Allen Creek Valley. (Packard might be appropriately shallow?) You'll need to specify reasonable receiving areas, and work with the housing non-profits to get sites at those areas. (I vote for the field next to PiHi, at the corner of Main and Stadium, or in the area of South Industrial and Stadium.)

You'll need to work with the people who won't let anything move out of downtown (that's us) to get agreement that already-built affordable housing within a ten minute bus ride of downtown is worth a lot more than, say, $100k in the fund, so that we don't kick and scream and try to block it.

You'll need to deal with the fact that, for example, the OFW will use "keep existing affordable housing downtown!" as an excuse to try to block the Glen Ann Place development, because affordable housing (like parks) is a safe rallying cry - you'll need to build relationships with all of the Council member and Planning Commissioners to the point where they'll take your advice that this is the best option seriously.

Once you've done all that, I think you'll find developers much more willing to help move houses.

9:40 AM  
Anonymous Brandon said...

So you're back? What happened last night? 2 more days of work and I'll be able to maintain my life/garden/civics/blog/other projects better again. And I'll bring back those bottles.

10:42 AM  
Blogger accidentalactivist said...

Yeah -- this is where a third-party non-profit developer would be particularly effective. Basically, they'd have the process down pat after about 3 moves. The permitters would know them, the non-profit would know what to expect in terms of talking to utilities and traffic people, etc., and they would have a handle on costs by having worked with movers, contractors, etc., repeatedly. If and when we got to that point, talk of affordable housing could also include a set discussion on house moving, eg, "We've got several options: 15 percent of total units means either x affordable units on site or x dollars in lieu of, and by the way, you can get some additional tax breaks by handing off the 3 houses on site to our Affordable Relocators group, which we strongly recommend. What does that last thing take? All they need is a two week window on the site immediately following the end of any current tenant lease. Jane (Affordable Relocators officer), why don't you set up a meeting with DevelopCo. and their accountants for next week to work out the details?"

1:54 PM  
Blogger accidentalactivist said...

I should also mention that it would then be the Affordable Relocation group's job to fight the civic battles with NIMBYs and the rest -- I'd love it if we could insulate developers from the local political bullshit while we got a group going that could also do the moving very efficiently.

1:59 PM  

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