An Act to Establish Affordable Housing to Aid in the Creation of a Walkable Downtown

  PRE-PROPOSAL 1. Media Artifact

Link to your media artifact(s) giving background on the issue:

Our pamphlet discussing the importance of implementing affordable housing in the state of michigan

By Casey Sanders and Jordan Landsberg


2. Persona and POV statement


Our POV statement discussing our persona




Persona name: Jennifer Jones Age: 37 School/occupation: Works as the marketing director for MILLENNIUM PT and Rehab services, Physical Therapy Clinic in Flint, MI. Her job includes: marketing outpatient and home care services to local physician, nursing home, hospitals, AFC and assisted living facility. Location: Flint, Michigan    Quote: "How can I provide for my kids if my community doesn't provide me with a feasible housing option? How can anyone with a low paying job afford to stay here?"     About:
  • Annual household income is $53,046 ($4,420.5 per month)

  • Lives in a two bedroom apartment with her five year old son and infant daughter
  • Hourly wage: $25.00, annual salary: $53,046

  • Has a mom who lives nearby who sometimes watches the kids, as she cannot afford a nanny 5 days a week

  • Go back to school to receive a higher education so that she can get a higher paying job to support her children
  • Save money to buy a new car and to be able to buy her children everything they need without stress
  • Find a safe, suitable living option so her children have space to grow and be productive in life and with their education


POV Statement:
  • User (be specific and use empathetic language, e.g., Karla, a busy and high achieving high school student…):​
    • Jennifer Jones is a very stressed single mother, looking for an affordable place to live and take care of her two young children. Eventually, Jennifer wants to go back to school to get a degree in marketing so she can earn more money and provide her family with the three bedroom house she’s always dreamed of.
  • Need (identifies a need that is meaningful and includes feelings, e.g. …needs a way to feel less stress at school…):
    • ​Jennifer needs an affordable, spacious place to live as a single mother with a low income and young children. She also needs a community in which her children can have room to grow as individuals and experience a childhood.
  • Insight (incorporates your observations; often unexpected, …because there is a lot of chaos in her life and she wants to feel more calm, peace, and mindfulness in her day.):
    • ​Jennifer needs a place to live that she can afford, as the stress of a full-time job, being a single mother, and focusing on her higher education is piling up.


3. Potential Solutions:

Describe three reasonable, feasible potential solutions or approaches that would help address this problem.

SOLUTION 1: The establishment of affordable housing will be funded by the government by the ways and means committee. The state of Michigan will receive additional funding from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority.

SOLUTION 2: Provide state-wide incentives for developers to create more affordable housing options.

  • Any developer who builds housing solely dedicated to affordable living will receive a tax abatement for 10 years

  • Any developer who builds affordable housing is allowed to build higher than regulation height.

  • Any developer who builds affordable housing may receive parking or design wavers, zoning variances, fee waivers, or expedited permitting.

SOLUTION 3: The state of Michigan mandate that at least five percent of units in an area be affordable to renters making fifty percent of the area median income. This policy would also ensure that a tenant is not paying too much of their income on rent.


Reference to a current Michigan bill or law that relates in some way to your proposal:

In 2016, the state of Michigan introduced the Senate Bill No. 1138, which was an act to limit the powers of a local governmental unit regarding the leasing of private residential property. Essentially, this bill was created to implement a plan for the state to increase the supply of moderate or low cost private residential property available for lease through incentives. Our proposal will hopefully build off of this bill, as we are also trying to incentivize developers to dedicate areas solely for affordable housing. Such incentives would include a tax abatement for 10 years to any developer who follows through.

Why this proposal will make a difference in the lives of students of all ages across Michigan, or a significant subgroup (by age, background, economic status, and/or region, etc.) of students in Michigan:

This proposal will help make a difference in the lives of students of all ages across Michigan, especially those in Ann Arbor, East Lansing, and Flint. These cities, also well-known college towns, have seen the rise of many luxury buildings being built over the last few years. At the UM in 2016, rent prices were high enough that 600 students listed Ypsilanti as their home address. These cities are becoming absurdly expensive to live in, and as students it's becoming harder and harder to afford. Our proposal will lower the costs of housing in these cities and will help alleviate the stresses that students face about expensive housing.

How and where did you learn about the issues underlying your proposal?

  • The issues underlying our proposal is a current nation-wide epidemic which we have learned about both inside the classroom as well as read about in local and regional newspapers.
  • In addition, one of our members is currently enrolled in a class that heavily talks about residential issues Michigan is currently facing and has had the research opportunities to see just not necessary affordable housing is first hand. 

How has your service activity influenced your thinking about this proposal?

  • Both of us had the opportunity to work with Food Gatherers as our service activity. Although Food Gatherers does not deal first hand with residential housing, it does display the economic aid that many people all over Michigan need, especially when it comes to basic necessities like food and shelter. At Food Gatherers we have had the privilege of meeting people who work for the company and deliver and cook food for families and shelters, people who work at shelters and other homes who need to provide for those who are economically unstable, and the people who cannot afford daily necessities themselves—they have expressed the need for more places like food gatherers to provide food and daily objects as well as the needed aid from the state to provide more housing options with closer proximity to food gatherers/shelter locations. 

Link to your media artifact(s) giving background on the issue:

Our pamphlet discussing the importance of implementing affordable housing in the state of michigan


Talk directly with at least 3 real live people who have special knowledge about this topic or the impact your proposal would have, and summarize their comments. These may include people appearing in your media artifact (video, podcast, etc.).

CONSULTATION 1: Our first consultant was a local real estate agent from our hometown of Long Island, New York, who works closely with rent-stabilized housing and affordable housing. With that being said, she expressed the importance and need for more communities to implement affordable housing, illustrating that communities across the country are facing low-income housing shortages, and that there is not a single county in the United States that can fill 100% of its low-income population's need for safe, affordable housing. In addition, there are currently 46 million people live in poverty in the United States who could be greatly affected by the mass implementation of affordable housing. She also discussed the steps that some local governments are taking to incentivise the building of affordable housing units (as mentioned in our proposal), and sent us great example articles that we could reference as well.


Our second consultation was with Kelly Rose, Chief Housing Solutions Officer from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA). The goal of this conversation was for us to understand how to fund our project, as we were unaware if it would be possible to use federal funding  for this project. Our conversation with Ms. Rose further helped us understand what was possible for us to do with regards to our proposal funding. She explained to us that no federal grants had been given out in years to the MSHDA. However, although grants aren’t given out, she helped us understand that the United States Department Housing and Urban Development (HUD) allocates as much money as they deem necessary based on each state’s poverty and homeless data. She then reaffirmed that it’s entirely possible for developers to receive tax abatements, but explained that they must apply for them but it is no process. Overall, she helped us figure out how to fund our proposal by giving us helpful links to informative MSHDA articles that are used to fund projects similar to ours.


CONSULTATION 3: Our third consultant is a teacher from the Sociology department at the University of Michigan who specializes in urban inequality throughout the state of Michigan. This professor wishes to remain anonymous. During our conversation, he/she has thoroughly studied housing in Michigan and the effect of residential housing on urban inequality. Furthermore, he/she has done research about cities beyond that of Michigan which lead us to believe that this person knows a great deal about affordable housing. We were told that his/her biggest concern is the frequency at which luxury buildings are being built in cities with a high population of young people, such as Ann Arbor. This professors feels that this is a pressing issue because of his/her interactions with students on an everyday basis and conversations in the classroom. The limited affordable housing options here in Ann Arbor leads to debt among many students, which can set them back further on in life when they eventually have to pay this debt off. This can further effect the creation of families and the life chances of their children. We walked away from this conversation realizing importance of implementing affordable housing in areas where young people live because they do not have the means to pay for these increasing prices. 

CONSULTATION 4: our fourth consultation was with Fred Freiberg who was the guest speaker at the annual Fair Housing Breakfast. At this presentation Frieberg discussed his experiences with housing discrimination and discussed all that he is currently doing to combat it, as "despite 5 years of housing equality our world is still segregated." He discussed the major effects of where one lives, as it affects where things as simple as where you eat, what you eat, your education, the jobs you receive, the social networks you attain, etc. One of the major dilemmas he discussed was income discrimination and rental subsidy programs. There is no where near enough affordable housing that allows rental subsidies and he is working to fix that and make sure that there is absolutely no discrimination when it comes to people looking to live in such properties.  

Reaction or advice from a Topic Coordinator:

You must solicit a critique from a topic coordinator, and explain the impact that advice has had on the final draft of this proposal.

We were very pleased with our work after meeting with topic coordinator, Jillian, who applauded our efforts greatly. Se said that we were well ahead of the game and going in the direction that we needed to be. She made note that we were extremely informed in our topic area and that our future consultants were going to be good ones that would help us learn the most about our topic and the relevance of our issue. Furthermore, she helped us figure out the right order for our preambulatory clauses. We spent a lot of time talking out what was necessary to include and what wasn't. Lastly, Jillian helped talk us through some problems we were experiencing, such as funding our proposoal. Overall, our conversation with her was extremely beneficial and helpful.

Research process:

Describe your research process — indicate who you talked to (including but not limited to consultants), what you read, what your thinking was, how it changed over time, and how your consultants changed your thinking. This description of your research process definitely could include “dead ends,” or ideas you had that didn’t ultimately bear fruit.  In short, we want to know what you did and how it led to your legislation, and we also want you to give us a window into your thought process.

We took many different approaches when it came to our research process. It started out as basic research regarding the current status of housing in Michigan. After much research we found that there are various communities that are either facing an economic downturn and is plagued with foreclosed properties and a declining population, or communities that are in a current revitalization period looking to grow economically, residentially, and educationally. Yes, we know that this is a large skew, however, we came to the conclusion that both of these community characteristics could benefit heavily from affordable housing. Using current classes at the university, google searches and finding scholarly articles as well as asking our consultations about this issue helped us get a great grasp for what the problems were and the extreme need that not only the state of Michigan has for the implementation of affordable housing and a revived economy, but all over our nation as well. Although we have only had one official consultation so far, the two that we have set up for the future are going to beneficial in putting the final touches on our proposal, as we know exactly what we are looking for and we are going to ask questions that gear us towards receiving our final answers.

Author contributions:

Please delineate--in detail--who made what contributions to the process and to the finished proposal? Who took on which responsibilities in researching ideas, drafting language, etc.?

Both of us have contributed to this project almost completely evenly, however Casey definitely has a bit more background on the topic as she has taken many classes in this subject area. She has been extremely patient and more than willing to discuss any controvesial or confusing ideas, and we have truly learned so much about this topic together. 

We have met multiple times to work on this project together. When it comes to research we always make sure to do it in each others presence to make sure that we are both as informed on all of the data we are using. We think this is important to grasp the overall need to a proposal like ours within the state of Michigan. We also brainstorm ideas together and write them down on scratch paper everytime we meet. We discuss possible problems and counter arguments to ensure that we are creating the strongest proposal possible. When it comes to uploading the information to this document we aren't usually specific with who posts what because we always do the work together. So whoever is posting is usually the one who gets to it first or who has less work to do that given day, it is not an indicator of who puts in more time and effort into this project.


The sections below should comprise your final proposal language, submitted for consideration by your peers and potential inclusion in the MSC Platform.

Preambulatory clauses

These set up the PROBLEM, but not the solution.

WHEREAS....In order to afford the average monthly rent in Michigan, a household would need to earn $16.24 per hour. That's nearly double the state’s current minimum wage.

WHEREAS....Rent in Michigan averages $844 in 2017, making it the 29th most expensive in the nation. The average hourly wage of renters in the state is $13.70, several dollars below the $16.24 per hour they'd have to earn to afford a market rate unit.

WHEREAS....There are roughly 1,100,000 rental households in Michigan,which is only 29% of all households. WHEREAS....Ann Arbor is the #1 best city to live in the US. And people struggle to find affordable housing in the #1 best place to live in America.

WHEREAS....31% of the workforce in Washtenaw County does not make enough to afford the average two-bedroom apartment here.

WHEREAS....In 2014, over 4,666 people in Washtenaw County experienced homelessness and about 38% of those are families with young children.

WHEREAS....there are over 19 million households that use over half of their annual income to pay for their current housing; whereas the addition of affordable housing will help them substantially with money, as well as helping small businesses flourish within the community as well.

WHEREAS.... communities in Michigan have a low availability of affordable housing.

WHEREAS....the buildings will support the creation of walkable neighborhoods because they will be close to the street, public spaces and areas, and include parking lots in rear and or underground locations.

WHEREAS.... a walkable downtown provides opportunity for businesses to flourish.

WHEREAS....A walkable downtown will also provide more jobs to local residents that can help them with their economic insecurities, which can aid in the development of more affordable housing and people putting a roof over their head.

WHEREAS....affordable housing will help the average American to maintain a decent quality of life. WHEREAS....affordable housing is created for the people to be able to come into a neighborhood and have the same amenities as other places with the needed economic relief; at an affordable price based on their yearly income.

WHEREAS....affordable housing will bring young entrepreneurs into suburban neighborhoods and increase the growth and expansion of business within the community.

WHEREAS....Affordable housing will bring people into a community who have money to spend on food and entertainment. This will serve to support the growth and development of walkable downtown neighborhoods. People are putting their recreational expenditures back into the local community.

WHEREAS....Affordable housing will allow people to move into neighborhoods and have the same amenities as other more economically stable places with the needed economic relief; at an affordable price based on their yearly income.

Operative clauses

These describe in detail, the solution you are proposing (not the problem itself; those should go in the "Whereas" clauses above).


Be it hereby enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled that the addition of affordable housing be implemented in states and areas where it is deemed desperately needed.

The people of the State of Michigan enact:

Section 1:  Set up a commission that looks into at least two specific areas that have been successful in implementing affordable housing that supports the creation of a walkable downtown.

  • This commission will specifically look into how the state of Michigan can incentivize developers to create affordable housing as well as new programs that can be created that can be funded by the federal government similar to that of the Low Income Housing Tax Credit or Housing Choice Voucher program.

  • This commission that will also be tasked with determining what it would take to get the right people, parties, stakeholders, participating in a venture like this that can implement enough affordable housing in a metropolitan town.

  • This commission has 2 years to acquire the necessary data and the commission should be based off of the 21st Century Infrastructure Commission in terms of finalized product.


Section 2: Designate communities within Michigan where such a project can be implemented by means of a pre-established downtown area. Then, choose 3 of those selected communities and begin a pilot program to implement the commission’s findings.

  • This pilot program will receive funding from both the state and the newly formed program created by the commission that will be funded by the federal government.

  • This pilot program will last 5 years and at the end of each year an assessment will be made pertaining the success of the program.


Section 3:  If certain benchmarks have been met then this idea must be implemented in other cities throughout Michigan.

  • Affordable housing is needed in neighborhoods wherever major metropolitan neighborhoods are currently located. For example, within Flint, Detroit, Ypsilanti, etc.

  • Let affordable housing be deemed as anywhere between a third and half of the normal rental price of the apartment before affordable housing has been implemented.

  • The prices of these apartments are based on the unit itself; the location of the building, and the number of rooms insides the unit as well as the amenities it provides. Or, let affordable housing be based on a percentage of the average income of the typical renter in the neighborhood.


Section 4: the creation and establishment of affordable housing will be funded by the federally subsidized program created by the commission and likely funded by the ways and means committee.

  • Any developer who builds housing solely dedicated to affordable living will receive a tax abatement for 10 years, and the federal government shall offer an income tax break of 5% to real estate developers who develop affordable housing in suburban areas.

  • This is necessary additional funding because we do not think the state will be able to provide sufficient funding

Section 5: the establishment of affordable housing will receive additional funding from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority.

  • Any developer who builds housing solely dedicated to affordable living will receive a tax abatement for 10 years

  • Any developer who builds affordable housing is allowed to build higher than regulation height.

  • Any developer who builds affordable housing may receive parking or design wavers, zoning variances, fee waivers, or expedited permitting.


Section 6: Building projects that are being created through federal funding will be overseen by the U.S. department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

  • Any problems or questions pertaining the development of rent-stabilized living will be brought up to the Federal Housing Administration (FHA).

  • The FHA will also help contribute to the maintenance of neighborhoods and communities with affordable housing.

Section 7: Building projects that are being funded by the state will be overseen by the Housing Choice Voucher Program.

  • This federal program provides rent subsidies for very low income people who find their own housing in private homes and apartment buildings.

  • Any problems or questions pertaining the ability to receive rent subsidies will be brought up to the  Family Self-Sufficiency and Key to Own Homeownership programs.



What are three reasonable arguments against this proposal?

1. How can you be sure that you can receive money from the Federal Government?

2. Don't you think that the state of Michigan would provide more funding for such efforts by now if they had the means and ability to do so?

3. What is to say that affordable housing has to go hand-in-hand with a walkable downtown?

Costs and funding:

What will your proposal cost (in direct expenses, lost tax revenue, lost economic opportunity, and/or non-monetary costs)? How will you pay for your proposed legislation? Where will/could the funding for your proposal come from?  Who might object to dedicating resources to your proposal (competing interests)?  

For our commission to run successful and obtain the necessary information we need to implement a pilot program and further the state’s ability to implement affordable housing to support the creation of a walkable downtown, we estimate that we will need about $10 million for each of the two years that it runs. We plan to use the data from our research study to estimate how much money will be needed for each city in Michigan and what the costs will be of running a pilot program in 3 cities who need it the most based on the commissions research. With that being said, our proposal will be paid for by state money, aided by the Housing Trust Fund (HTF) if need be. The HTF is an affordable housing production program that will complement existing state efforts to increase and preserve the supply of affordable housing. The commission will be solely funded by means of the State, and a focal point of the commission is to find out how we can receive federal funding to create both the pilot program and any other future venture we choose to pursue through means of starting a new program(s) similar to that of the Low Income Housing Tax Credit or Housing Choice Voucher program . Objection to dedicating resources to our proposal might include money to be spent on the water crisis in Michigan, or the hunger epidemic. We know that those issues are more pressing than affordable housing, and think that the state might object to a large project.


These can include websites or other information you have found about the issue.

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Total votes: 29