Transcription: Jennifer Hall's Comments to City Council, July 6th 2020
Transcription of comments by Executive Director of the Ann Arbor Housing Commission Jennifer Hall from the Ann Arbor City Council Meeting on July 6th 2020 (video link).
About a year or so ago, I provided a book called The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein to the Mayor and all City Council members, to help us all understand the institutional racist history of housing policy in the United States. I’ve been working on affordable housing for 30 years, and I did not fully understand this history until I read the book, even though I see it and deal with it on a daily basis.
I just want to remind folks that this is public property owned by the entire citizenry of Ann Arbor, not just the neighbors who are adjacent to it. The City has owned it for, could be hundreds of years; so if we’re going to make a policy decision based only on the people who are living next to public property, then you’re making a policy decision that excludes most of the public. That’s particularly problematic when we’re talking about housing…due to the long history of exclusionary segregationist housing policies that are perpetuated by federal, state, and local governments. This includes all housing; it includes subsidized housing, it includes million-dollar homes.
If you were to talk to somebody who lives in Ann Arbor who is a Black person who is in their 60s or 70s, they will still remember when you could put a deed restriction on a property excluding anyone who is not white from owning or living in that property unless they are live-in domestic help. They can remember redlining. That was not that long ago in our history. The neighborhoods that we have and the neighborhoods that we’re dealing with are already segregated by income and, to a lesser degree, also by race because of that history.
If we’re going to make housing policies, we need to make them that also address that historical segregation. Don’t forget that Washtenaw County is the eighth most racially segregated county in the United States, and Ann Arbor City has contributed to that racial segregation. Affordable housing can be built on this site, but it’s just going to require more local resources than any other sites, because you cannot leverage federal and state resources. I support utilizing public resources as affordable housing at this site; but not if it takes away those resources from other sites that are more financially feasible, because they can leverage that federal and state funding. If we only have limited resources locally, then if we demo the site, preserve the chimney swifts, clean up the brownfield, build the Treeline Trail, and deal with the traffic on West Washington, then those resources are not going to be available for other publicly-owned sites that could have affordable housing on them.