Arthur Jemison, Director of Housing and Revitalization, City of Detroit
Mr. Jemison began with a brief opening statement before inviting questions from members. He and staff members are working to organize a symposium by late September to include local housing developers and community groups from around the city to gather input for the creation of a city wide housing plan. Within the next two to three weeks, he plans to present to Mayor Duggan his ideas about how the planning process could work, an overall timeline for the process, and ideas for incorporating adequate community input along the way. Further, he said he believes it will be important to form focus groups composed of community members and community leaders early on to inform the overall planning process. At several points during the meeting, Mr. Jemison reiterated that he seeks and encourages input and participation from CDAD members as he and his staff move forward with the planning process.
Questions from attendees spurred open dialogue and discussion on a variety of topics:
A member from the North Corktown neighborhood commented that more than half the land in that particular neighborhood is now in the hands of the Detroit Land Bank Authority (DLBA). Land is currently being acquired in the neighborhood for a large scale development project and up to this point, there has been no outreach by the city or the developer to engage the community. The resident asked about the permitting process, how the Department of Housing and Revitalization and the Planning Department interact and the current protocol for community engagement along the way. Mr. Jemison stated that the Department of Housing and Revitalization communicates at least once or twice weekly with both the Planning Department and the DLBA on various issues including proposed development projects around the city. As with all Michigan municipalities, the permitting process for large scale development provides a legal framework for noticing and holding public hearings.
Current legal requirements though, provide for the bulk of public input only after both developer and city have invested substantially in the planning and permitting process. Mr. Jemison stressed the need to create procedures and protocols to provide for meaningful input from neighborhood organizations and individual residents before substantial plans and investments into the permitting process happen. He sees this as a main goal to be accomplished through a city wide housing planning process.
Mr. Jemison discussed with CDAD members, the process of choosing sites for developments supported with Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) http://www.michigan.gov/mshda/0,4641,7-141-5587_5601-21934–,00.html. He said not every neighborhood can or should support LIHTC development. Another issue to address as part of the planning process is to develop meaningful measures and criteria to base decisions concerning which development projects are appropriate for which neighborhoods.
The Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) now says that a Walk Score https://www.redfin.com/how-walk-score-works is an important qualifying factor for LIHTC. Walk Score is a number between 0 and 100 that measures the walkability of any address determined by the number of amenities such as medical care, access to fresh food, schools etc., that are within walking distance. The process of predicting the potential success of housing developments within Detroit neighborhoods should likely involve a variety of economic and quality of life measures beyond the Walk Score. Moving ahead, it will be important to track a variety of indicators to gauge the long term success of development projects. Factors such as long term housing affordability, residential longevity and access to employment and educational opportunities in combination will lead to sustainable economic security for Detroit families. CDAD member organizations are well positioned to provide input into the development of these measures and criteria. The wealth of data already available as well as the rich community connections that have been developed over time by Detroit neighborhood organizations can and should inform the housing planning process.
Mr. Jemison asked to speak to CDAD members at the next general meeting. Questions, comments and all input regarding the city wide housing planning process can be directed to Julie Schneider, Executive Manager of Public-Private Partnerships for the Housing and Revitalization Department.