The number of people who struggle with the high cost of housing in the Ann Arbor region continues to increase, according to the Housing Affordability and Economic Equity – Analysis (January 2015), commissioned by the Washtenaw County Office of Community and Economic Development (WCOCED). It’s an extraordinary document and a must read for all leaders in our community. There’s a real mismatch between the local workforce, the many terrific job opportunities available in our region, how far workers now travel for those jobs, and the available workforce housing options in Ann Arbor.
As we have seen in other major cities with similar economic success, lack of workforce housing in proximity to jobs will eventually be a major disincentive, and it will affect talent attraction and growth in our region. This is not about subsidized housing, this is about “housing for the workforce” that drives our economy. This is an economic development issue, and it’s central to the future of our region.
The median household income for the Ann Arbor metro area is $61,977. If we focus our discussion around those making 60% to 125% of median household income, it’s about the nurses who work in our hospitals and the police and fire professionals who take care of us every day. It’s also about the young professionals who want to work at high tech companies in Ann Arbor – the talent we want to retain here for our future workforce needs.
The solution needs to go beyond what can be done within the City of Ann Arbor – we need to look throughout the county. We need to work collaboratively as a “region” and move this topic forward for the good of all Washtenaw County. A healthy Ann Arbor region is good for all of us.
If we look solely at the City of Ann Arbor to solve this problem, the practical reality is that the math doesn’t work. We just won’t drive the needed 3,000+ units of workforce housing required over the next 20 years as outlined in the study prepared by WCOCED. This also won’t happen if we expect the private side or the public side to solely drive the equation. The solution lies in a public private partnership model with the private side providing the capital and expertise, and the public side stimulating the program, clearing the way to make it happen quickly and efficiently, and crafting creative solutions with their private partners.
For our part at McKinley, we recently built over 110+ units of workforce housing in Pittsfield Township and in the City of Ann Arbor. We have an additional 200+ units in planning in those communities which we hope to bring out of the ground very soon. Those projects were funded privately without any government subsidies (as will those in planning), and they will account for about 10% of what will be needed long term per the WCOCED study. As you would expect, our two newly built projects have had tremendous success, with both projects leasing up immediately. We are very confident that the next round of new workforce housing developments will be equally successful as well.
We at McKinley look forward to rolling up my sleeves and being an active player at the table, and making a difference in our community doing what we know how to do best!
Albert M. Berriz
CEO, Co-Owner, and Manager
The McKinley Companies