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Concerns Over Affordable Housing For Senior Citizens Leads To Policy Forum In Washtenaw County

Nearly 70 community leaders, many of them Washtenaw County elected officials, gathered today for a policy forum to address the growing need for affordable housing for senior citizens. 

"Seniors are going to dominate population growth in the region from now until 2040."

For Southeast Michigan, that figure is expected to increase from 413,000 senior citizens to 828,000 during that period.  Mark Treskon, Research Associate from the Washington D.C. think tank group, "Urban Institute," presented the information during the forum.  

Washtenaw County Board of Commissioner Ricky Jefferson says state officials need to provide more help.

"To find ways to redo our laws that I guess in the last few years are making it difficult for seniors to have affordable housing."

State Representative AdamZemke from the 55th District agrees.

"Work on requirements around certain percentages of development that need to be designated for affordable housing."

Zemke added that both local and state officials should also look into identifying existing housing that could be used for affordable housing.

Henry Johnson, Board Member of the Presbyterian Villages of Michigan, also took part in the forum held at the Ypsilanti Community Schools Administration building.  He says state laws that allow construction developers to obtain tax incentives for providing affordable housing also need to be re-examined. 

"If their (developers) intent is to meet the minimum requirement and then convert to for profit as soon as they can, I think that's an ethical issue that needs to be considered. And probably should be a longer term."

Johnson refers to the fifteen years some property owners, who are getting tax incentives, have to opt out of affordable housing to start charging market value for their units.  

State Representative Ronnie Peterson from the 54th District hosted the event after tenants from the Cross Street Village apartmentsin Ypsilanti voiced their concerns over possibly losing their units later this month.  The property owner is considering opting out of its affordable housing agreement.

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— Jorge Avellan is a reporter for 89.1 WEMU News. Contact him at 734.487.3363 or email him javellan@emich.edu

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