Series of “People’s Bills” to address housing affordability, jobs in Detroit

By Robin Runyan 
Photo by Michelle & Chris Gerard 

Monday morning, City Council member Mary Sheffield introduced a series of bills called “The People’s Bills” that will go to City Council over the next few months for approval. The bills address the inequality facing many Detroiters in regards to affordable housing, water affordability, and access to jobs. This inequality lies in stark contrast to new developments and improvements seen in the downtown core.

The People’s Bills would include:
  • Mandating that publicly-funded contracts for demo and construction in the city hire at least 51 percent Detroiters. Currently, over half of these contracts go to suburban companies.
  • Amending the Community Benefits Ordinance that was adopted almost two years ago. The threshold would be lowered from its current $75 million and developers would negotiate with residents, instead of just engage. Sheffield says the current ordinance, “has produced few real benefits for the local communities.”
  • Making sure Detroiters who qualify have access and can get help with the Homeowners Property Tax Assistance Program. Earlier this year, the ACLU won a lawsuit against the City of Detroit since the process of filing for this program was burdensome and not properly communicated to residents.
  • Creating an income-based water affordability plan.
  • Reducing parking tickets from $45 to $30, or $15 if paid promptly.
  • Proposing a Homeless Bill of Rights, which will help those staying in temporary shelters.
  • Eliminating cash bails for city offenses.
  • Amending the Detroit Affordable Housing Development and Preservation Fund, and create an Affordable Housing Trust Fund to help create more affordable housing in Detroit.

“When I was elected to the Detroit City Council, I promised to offer a more open, transparent and representative form of government to Detroiters,” said Sheffield. “The introduction of the People’s Bills is the direct result of that promise and my attempt to give the people a voice in the public policy process and create a climate in Detroit by which all Detroiters have the opportunity to prosper and improve their quality of life.”

• Mandate 51% of Detroiter hiring on construction and demolition projects and lower the current $3 million threshold at which existing hiring rules kick in.
• Amend a weak Community Benefits Ordinance to ensure it provides tangible benefits. As written, the ordinance requires only that developers receiving significant city incentives engage with the community and form a non-binding agreement.
• Create a water affordability plan whereby rates vary based on income. Last year, nearly 18,000 people had their water service shut off for past-due paid bills. As of this spring, the average past-due bill was about $660.
• Help Detroit homeowners living in poverty more easily access a tax exemption program. Detroit this year settled an ACLU lawsuit that alleged the city had made the assistance too difficult to obtain.
• Lower parking ticket fines from $45 to $30 and reinstate an additional reduction for prompt payment to further reduce the fine to $15.
• Create a 'Homeless Bill of Rights' for people staying in publicly funded shelters.
• Better fund a so-called Affordable Housing Trust Fund (otherwise known as the Detroit Affordable Housing Development and Preservation Fund) that helps create affordable housing for households living at or below
30 percent of Area Median Income — or approximately $15,000 per year.
• Eliminate cash bail for city offenses.