Lansing-area activists form coalition to push for more affordable housing

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Several dozen Lansing residents, upset by decisions about low-income housing, gun violence and other Lansing issues, have formed the People’s Council, an organization they say will advocate for solutions and action by officials.

The council’s goal is to have more impact on the city by leveraging the voices of residents, Lansing-area activist Erica Lynn told the State Journal.

“So our power is in our voices, in our numbers and in our influence to affect them, to be our voice and to speak for us,” she said.

Lynn said the Lansing Housing Commission’s latest meeting created a “watershed moment” for the group of about 50 people who gathered at the Fledge in Lansing on Wednesday.

The Housing Commission pushed ahead with the sale of over 200 public housing units on July 13 despite opposition from many in the community. Three out of five commissioners approved the submission of sales documents to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The Lansing Housing Commission is moving ahead with the controversial sale of over 200 public housing lots to a non-government real estate investment firm. Plans are in place to convert the homes from a traditional public housing model to a Section 8 model that will allow private landlords to rent apartments and homes at fair market prices to qualified, low-income tenants through a rental subsidy program.

The sale is progressing:Lansing Housing Commission votes to bring HUD sale proposal forward after heated public comment

Commission Executive Director Doug Fleming said the Housing Commission will be able to increase the amount of affordable housing in the Lansing area by selling the properties to Sunrise, Fla.-based SK Investments Group.

Profits from the sale of public housing are federally restricted and must go towards the construction, development and renovation of more affordable housing units in Lansing.

“We’re raising money for the Housing Commission to build new affordable units in the community,” Fleming said. “Because of the way we sell them, any units we sell will continue to be affordable housing units.”

However, community members are skeptical about how the sale will affect residents already living in the homes.

“I see this as having a tremendous negative impact on generational prosperity and the attempt to build justice, especially for black, brown and poor people,” said Jerry Norris, CEO of The Fledge, a community center in Lansing.

Housing advocates and residents of other housing conversion sites have expressed public comment about concerns about the housing commission’s track record on maintenance requests and what might happen to residents currently living in the homes.

“This is something we’ve thought about for years, and we’ve tried to do this ourselves in so many different areas through Merica and individual advocacy,” Lynn told the State Journal. “But we realized we needed more. We had to build more capacity.”

Notes on important issues cover a white board during the People's Council meeting on Wednesday 20th July 2022 at The Fledge in Lansing.

What is the structure and power of the People’s Council?

The Lynns said on their Merica 20 to Life podcast Monday that the People’s Council would include attending various government meetings to take notes, provide information to residents and write resolutions or proposals that address residents’ concerns would.

“That’s the goal, to get everyone in the room to have a conversation about what we can see, these are big, glaring issues, and then find ways to go ahead and attack them,” Mike Lynn said .

He said the People’s Council will mirror the Lansing City Council, with four Lansing residents representing each of the four boroughs and four at-large members who are not required to live in Lansing.

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Lisa Sadler of Lansing speaks during the People's Council meeting on Wednesday July 20, 2022 at The Fledge in Lansing.

Julia Smith of Punks with Lunch will represent Station 1, a person identified only as Zero will represent Station 2, Dwight Evans has been appointed to Station 3, and Conner Holguin will represent Station 4.

The council’s goal is to make more of an impact on the city by leveraging the voices of residents, Erica Lynn said.

She added that the council will also be building a resource hub for each resident to access public record requests, police complaints, email templates and anything else people might need to resolve issues.

Lansing City Council President Adam Hussain was not immediately available Monday.

Mike Lynn speaks during the People's Council meeting on Wednesday 20th July 2022 at The Fledge in Lansing.

What’s next for the People’s Council?

The four elected residents, alternates and general members will attend the July 25th Lansing City Council meeting. Jerry said they will speak during public comment to show they exist and supporters are present to show their support.

The council was formed out of love for the city, Norris said, but a desire to see it grow.

“We want gun violence to go away. We want homes to be safe. We’re tired of seeing people go hungry or suffer overdoses,” he said. “We are fed up with suicides. We’re fed up with housing instability. We’re fed up with this. We’re fed up. It’s time to do something.”

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Contact reporter Krystal Nurse at (517) 267-1344or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @KrystalRNurse.

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