On Monday, August 12, the Dexter City Council unanimously voted to approve the payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) ordinance for the proposed Avalon Housing development at 7651 Dan Hoey Road. To read the complete statement I made at the public hearing, please visit the website provided at the end of this letter or email me at email@example.com. In short, my statement provides evidence that what began as a desire for Faith In Action to find a permanent location for its satellite food pantry in Dexter, currently open for only 7 hours a week, has evolved into a real estate development that requires the City of Dexter to disproportionately meet Washtenaw County’s supportive housing needs in a way that places children at a disproportionate risk.
The purpose of this letter is two-fold: (1) to share additional facts about the proposed development with the community and (2) to address the nature of the ongoing public conversation about the development.
First, some additional facts and associated conclusions. Regarding the proposed distribution of housing types: The proposed development now includes 15 (63%) supportive housing units—that’s an increase from the 12 (50%) supportive housing units proposed at the time of the open house on July 16th. The funding mechanism used by Avalon for this development is specifically intended for permanent supportive housing developments and requires that at least 15 units or 35% (whichever is greater) of the development be designated as supportive. On the other hand, there are other funding mechanisms that would enable Avalon or another developer to build a permanent food pantry for Faith In Action and the more general affordable housing units that would help those in need here in Dexter. Please read my most recent letter to the editor dated July 22for more details, including several external references, regarding the distinction between affordable and supportive housing and how eligibility for placement in each is determined.
Regarding how the proposed distribution of housing types relates to Dexter’s housing needs: To date, the only expressed need for supportive housing is at the county-level; there is no evidence that anyone in Dexter is eligible for supportive housing. Given the data available, the proposed development requires the City of Dexter, which accounts for only 1% of the county’s households, to meet at least 25% of the county’s need for supportive housing. (Note that the entire 48130 ZIP code accounts for less than 4% of the county’s households).
Regarding the behaviors that might be expected to occur at the proposed development—directly across the street from the schools, across from the playground where children commonly can be seen playing alongside the fence, and on sidewalks where children walk to and from school: Per publicly available crime mapping data and a FOIA request for more detailed incident reports, in two Avalon supportive housing developments of similar size with similar distributions of housing types, over the past six months, there have been a combined 17 reported crimes—10 assaults, 2 aggravated felony assaults, 2 damage to private property, 1 sex crime, 1 larceny, and 1 fraud. You have to extend to all the properties within a ½ mile radius of 7651 Dan Hoey Road to find 9 reported crimes during that same period of time. Detailed incident reports for the Sharon Ann Apartments in Chelsea, the first partnership between Avalon and Faith In Action consisting of just 5 supportive units (29% of the development), indicate there have been 6 incidents since February and 20 incidents since the renovated complex was unveiled in June 2018. These incidents range from the nuisance 911 hang-up call to the more concerning situation of a resident passed out in the parking lot and include noise complaints and disputes among residents.
Do I think that residents of the proposed development are going to directly target school children walking to or from school or while on the playground? No, I have never expressed that concern and agree that is unlikely. However, is it possible that children walking to or from school or on the playground might happen upon or witness a resident passed out on the sidewalk, a drunken argument in the parking lot, or perhaps something worse that warrants police intervention? Yes, as demonstrated by the evidence, it is. Is it also possible that children might be exposed to these incidents in other parts of the city? Yes. But as the evidence indicates, there is a disproportionate likelihood that this sort of activity will occur at a development of this nature. Thus, the location of the proposed development—across from the schools—is imprudent.
Which brings me to the second purpose of this letter: In various public statements, certain respected members of the community—whether they be current or former elected officials or members of formal or informal media outlets—have continued to confuse the definitions of affordable and supportive housing and ignore evidence-based concerns about the criminal and other nuisance behaviors that are associated with developments of this type. Yes, I can point you to direct quotes and am happy to do so upon request; however, I do not think it is in the community’s best interest to dilute this important conversation with personal character attacks. Rather, I raise this point because, regardless of how my persistence in this matter has been perceived or portrayed to date, I value (1) a local government that, when making a decision, considers all the evidence, makes a legitimate effort to gather representative and accurately informed resident input, and is honest, accurate, and transparent in its communication about its decision and (2) local media that is unbiased in its reporting and, when relevant, discloses any potential conflict of interest.I think most of you do, too.
Your next opportunities to show your support for or opposition to this development are at the public hearing regarding the zoning and site plan on Tuesday, September 3 and the public hearing reviewing the site plan and zoning and the land sale to Avalon on Monday, September 9. Both meetings are at 7p at the Dexter Senior Center (7720 Ann Arbor Street). Because the Washtenaw Housing Alliance is making a concerted effort to stock these meetings with supporters who are given talking points, I think it is only fair that I encourage any of you who share my concerns to paraphrase or quote directly any of the statements I have made to date. If you are unable to attend these meetings, consider emailing members of city councildirectly. Feel free to include firstname.lastname@example.org on any such correspondence.
Please visit change.org for more information, including the text of the complete statement I made to council, or to sign the petition (https://www.change.org/p/dexter-city-council-reconsider-the-need-for-and-location-of-avalon-housing-s-supportive-housing). Additionally, you can email email@example.com for supporting documentation or to be directed to the petition.