Originally constructed as housing for workers of the local Willow Run plant in the 1940s, Parkridge Homes converted to public housing in the 1950s. The combination of age and insufficient funding for adequate maintenance resulted in the homes becoming substandard and nearly uninhabitable. The former homes were an unwelcome eyesore in the community and were considered by many to be housing of the last resort.
New Parkridge replaces the 70-year-old Parkridge public housing complex with a vibrant new development that has revitalized the neighborhood and turned a blighted, nearly vacant community into a highly coveted neighborhood with a waiting list.
New Parkridge features 86 brand new apartments and townhomes with on-site supportive services for individuals and families. The original apartments were completely demolished and replaced with the highest quality of rental housing—affordable or otherwise—in the City of Ypsilanti. The new community incorporates an environmentally-friendly design with a focus on safety. Rather than a collection of multi-family buildings, the design for New Parkridge was intended to provide residents with a sense of community, ownership and belonging. The project perfectly complements the YHC’s Hamilton Crossing, a dilapidated, 144-unit affordable housing property that was completely redeveloped about five years ago, located nearby on the Harriet Street Corridor. These two properties represent a majority of the Parkridge neighborhood.
New Parkridge’s “new urbanism” architectural design connects each home to the surrounding community and features street-facing homes with front porches, sidewalks, driveways and yards. Open spaces include playgrounds, a grilling area and a community garden. A community building with a large community room, kitchen, computer lab and offices for social workers and management staff is dedicated in honor of Amos Washington, the first African-American city council member and former director of the YHC responsible for overseeing the original Parkridge community in 1952.
Inside the Amos Washington Building, supportive services offered by Eastern Michigan University and Avalon Housing provide residents with access to services including health care, education, job training and placement, childcare, individualized case management planning, coordination of care provider services for health care, mental health and dental care, assistance with Medicaid enrollment, health education and wellness programs. Adult literacy, higher education instruction and leadership development are also offered. Residents are encouraged to engage in the Family Empowerment Program (FEP), a collaboration led by Eastern Michigan University that brings services and activities to residents with the goal of eliminating barriers to self-sufficiency and independence.
There is a seemingly endless need for affordable housing in Ypsilanti. When waiting lists opened in February 2017 for the New Parkridge and Deborah Strong Housing developments, approximately 1,400 applications were received in a single week. Apartments at New Parkridge were leased immediately upon completion and the property has consistently maintained 100% occupancy.
New Parkridge serves families and individuals of lower socio-economic status and great financial need. Poverty is a commonality, as eligible residents are considered very low income. 77 of the 86 units are subsidized with Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance and the property currently has a waiting list of over 250.
For decades, the YHC struggled to adequately address the growing backlog of capital needs amid diminishing federal funding. HUD’s Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) provided a pathway to compete for Low Income Housing Tax Credits, an incredibly valuable resource for affordable housing development that was previously inaccessible under the public housing program. The YHC applied for the RAD program, which is designed to create a more stable funding stream and allow access to private financing by converting public housing funding to Section 8 contracts, and partnered with Baltimore-based developer Chesapeake Community Advisors to apply for Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) through the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA). Two unsuccessful LIHTC applications were submitted (Fall 2013, Spring 2014) before the project was finally awarded credits following its third application in the Fall of 2015. The project received widespread support from the City of Ypsilanti as well as federal, state and local elected officials.
New Parkridge is incredibly cost-effective. Because HUD’s RAD program requires that the Section 8 funding converted from public housing not exceed the original amount, contract rents for New Parkridge are substantially low. On average (1 to 4 bedrooms), contract rents for New Parkridge are $575. This is below the market rate for even a 1-bedroom unit in Washtenaw County.