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Avalon Housing's new executive director hopes to respond to community needs, continue advocacy in Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County

Avalon Housing executive director Aaron Cooper.
Avalon Housing
Avalon Housing executive director Aaron Cooper.

Avalon Housing aims to bring secure housing at an affordable price to Washtenaw County. The organization currently manages 29 buildings and has three more projects in the works.

Aaron Cooper joined Avalon Housing as the executive director, with seventeen years of experience working in public and affordable housing last month. He says many of the upcoming projects the organization is working on responds directly to the needs of Washtenaw County residents.

“We’re seeing more of a need for housing for families with children. So, that's an increase in population. That’s alarming. I mean, we’re talking about families with small children that are potentially homeless or face homelessness."

In reaction, the organization is building units specifically for families with young children and other at-risk groups, like veterans. The organization plans to provide 152 affordable apartment units in the next few years, including a 63-unit building in the Kerrytown neighborhood in Ann Arbor. Units are all priced below the area median income. However, Cooper says that doesn’t inherently mean units are accessible to all.

“We use the word 'affordable' a lot in this industry, and what we consider affordable may not be affordable to other people, and we realize that and that's the very difficult thing about quote-unquote affordable housing. Because of Washtenaw County being one of the most expensive counties, the area median income in those areas are higher than maybe what you would see in Wayne County or Monroe County."

One practice Avalon Housing maintains to keep units accessible is pricing them at 60% the area median income.

Cooper says since joining the organization as executive director, he’s already seen the impact secure and affordable housing has on residents and plans to continue advocating for clients and exploring local partnerships.

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Taylor Bowie was a WEMU reporter from October 2023 to June 2024.
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