Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist Stops in Ypsilantiby Desiraé Simmons
On October 4, Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist II hosted a pair of meetings at the Parkridge Community Center. Ypsilanti was the seventh stop on his tour around the state for the Thriving Cities Tour: Improving the quality of life in Michigan’s urban centers. We were told that the Governor’s office is looking to create a policy agenda in certain areas for every level of government to work together. Earlier that week I had received an email inviting me to the event with a link to a survey I needed to complete as my RSVP. The survey focused on areas of affordable housing, generational economic opportunity, environmental quality and justice, kids in cities, mobility and transit. Even with the small survey sample size, affordable housing was named as the highest priority for our community by far with 73% scoring as our first or second priority. Lt. Governor Gilchrist said that Ypsilanti was the first community on his stop that rated affordable housing as its top priority, though we wouldn’t be the last as Lansing and Kalamazoo also named affordable housing as their top priorities. For Ypsilanti, generational economic opportunity was the second top priority at 13%. After sharing some information about what our survey results were and how they fit into the Michigan landscape, we were asked to share solutions to the issues in these areas without regard to current feasibility.
Ideas from the Audience:
The following are paraphrased and condensed comments. You can view the FaceBook Live video on the Lt. Governor’s page for the complete presentation.
- Mayor Beth Bashert believes we need to fix the flawed funding model from the state. She mentioned that Ypsilanti has a Brownfield (Water Street) that could be developed with dense housing with some funding support from other levels of government.
- Edward shared that the Nexus Pipeline project has disrupted a habitat and has caused a West Willow neighborhood to be overrun with rats, racoons, and other rodents. He also talked about the implications of policies that impact those with a criminal background and the few resources available to them.
- Human Relations Commissioner Ka’Ron Gaines identified a need to focus on credit repair and wants to create programs for kids to own their own businesses/LLCs so they can practice thinking freely.
- Krystle said nonprofits like public universities should put money into affordable housing. She also pointed out that Veterans Affairs (VA) home loans are not currently always accepted, and there is no support for home inspection fees, and associated costs, which can make buying a home impossible for low-income people.
- County Commissioner Ricky Jefferson wants to better manage rentals for quality and cost. He also mentioned that the current way we assess the area median index is not specific enough to the needs of the local community and needs to be changed.
- Justin sees a need to focus on zoning, particularly for businesses like payday loans because of the role they play in low-income areas because of how concentrated they are.
- Ypsilanti Township Trustee Monica Ross Williams focuses on generational wealth by promoting home ownership and supports programs like Habitat for Humanity that uses sweat equity, or ones that allow section 8 voucher holders to transition into home ownership. She also spoke about “area discrimination” because certain investors are not supporting small businesses and entreprenuership in our communities.
- Bryan advocated for more support of the trades in licensing and accreditation.
- Portia said the children with the most needs receive the least funding. She also said that there are lots of jobs in Saline, but that our public transportation stops short of the Saline line.
Of course, I shared some ideas including that the Subcommittee on Housing Affordability and Accessibility would be releasing recommendations of solutions based on two years of volunteer work that includes public engagement and feedback. I also suggested that we divorce our school funding from property taxes. I agreed with Mayor Bashert that we need to address the flawed funding model because currently it encourages municipalities to practice policies that promote gentrification. I am interested in learning what the conversation was during the meeting that preceded the one I attended. It included elected officials and a couple other community residents, but was not open to the public.
An area that the Lt. Governor seems to feel particularly invested in is transportation. He spoke of the need for leadership related to the regional transit plan and that he is personally dedicated to being involved. When I shared that I don’t drive and that it is easier to get into Ann Arbor than to get across the city, I even learned that he tried to commute via Greyhound to Lansing from his hometown of Detroit, and quickly found it was not sustainable. This is a clear area of collaboration that local public transit organizers can explore especially as The Ride is completing their Long Range Plan.
Ypsilanti Data Snapshot:
[Editor’s Note: The following set of data comes directly from the Lt. Governor’s slide presentation. At this time What’s Left cannot verify these data, or to what time periods they refer. We are sharing so that readers can see the information that state level officials are gathering about Ypsilanti.]
Generational Economic Opportunity:
- Income: The median income in Ypsilanti is $35,890
- Unemployment Rate: in Ypsilanti, 10%
- Education: 50% of adults in Ypsi have a postsecondary degree
- Cost to own: $1,326
- Cost to rent: $1,140
- Income to own: $53,040
- Income to rent: $45,600
- Hours worked needed to afford at average wage: 55
- Hours worked needed to afford at minimum wage: 93
Lt. Governor Gilchrist stated that the Ypsilanti housing market does NOT meet the definition of affordable (see Housing Unaffordable to a Great many in Ypsilanti in Issue 2 of What’s Left Ypsilanti).
Kids in Cities:
|In Michigan||In Ypsilanti|
|Children in Poverty||21.7%||40%|
Thriving Cities Tour
- Bay City
- Benton Harbor
- Ann Arbor
- Grand Rapids
- Battle Creek
- Lathrup Village