Flint, MI–During the second night of a 13-hour city council meeting, an ordinance to develop affordable housing in the north side of Flint failed to be adopted. 

Four council members voted yes, one voted no, and four were silent. 

The ordinance would have allowed Communities First Inc., a developer that has rehabilitated properties in Flint in the past, to pay a 4% service charge in lieu of taxes on Orchard Lane Apartments, located at 2709 Orchard Lane. 

The tax break would allow the developers to purchase and renovate the apartments for the purpose of creating what Councilman Herbert Winfrey referred to as “decent, affordable housing.”

Councilman Winfrey said he strongly supported the redevelopment of the apartments.

“I have received I don’t know how many complaints about the Orchard Lane Apartments,” Winfrey said. “I think the majority of people in the 6th ward and in that area would be supportive of a low and moderate income housing renovation. I would really appreciate the support of my colleagues on this.”

Monica Galloway, Jerri Winfrey-Carter and Eric Mays each spoke in support of the resolution.

“This council has been adamant about saying…things are happening on the south side, things are happening downtown, nothing’s happening over on the north side,” Council President Galloway said. “This is on the north side. I think this is going to create excitement and I’m going to support the council person who believes this is going to be a benefit to their area.” 

Councilman Allan Griggs said that because the ordinance would create a loss of $26,000 a year in property tax revenue, he would be voting against it.

Winfrey disagreed.

“If the city is getting $26,000 right now that is good, but a rehabbed property with more folks in it, means the value of that property will go up,” Winfrey said. “But what would happen to that building if it goes into foreclosure? The city will lose $26,000 again.”

When it came time for a vote, Kate Fields, Eva Worthing, Santino Guerra and Maurice Davis were silent. 

Guerra announced he would be leaving the call a couple hours earlier, but Fields and Worthing did not, which Galloway said was a violation of council rules. It appeared that Davis was still on the call, but just did not participate in the vote. It was almost 12:30 a.m.

“It is disheartening that my colleagues would leave a meeting that they asked for to finish the business of the city,” Galloway said. “I hope there will be enough support for reconsideration for that project on the north side.”

Director of Planning and Development Suzanne Wilcox said she was disappointed in the council vote as well, and that they would work to bring the resolution back to council. 

“The city desperately needs affordable housing,” Wilcox said. “We’ve already been talking, even on this call, about how we can reintroduce it. This is extremely disappointing.”

The failure to approve this resolution followed a failure to approve a motion Councilwoman Fields made earlier in the meeting. 

Fields made a motion for the council to “provide staff to assist the clerk with the election process by helping with the necessary training, certifications and writing of standard operating procedures.” 

She made a similar motion during Monday’s meeting to hire people to act as “election monitors” to assist City Clerk Inez Brown, and also hire an attorney for city council specifically, but it failed. 

Fields did not have any specifics as to the number of people that would be hired, how much they would be paid, what their hours would be or how long they would be employed. She did say there was someone she knew that she had in mind for the position.

“Did you ask Mrs. Brown if she needs help?,” Councilwoman Winfrey-Carter asked. “It seems like you are going over her head.”

Councilwoman Fields said that this motion is not to go over Brown, but to work with her. 

“Is council saying the clerk is exempt from being held accountable?” Fields asked. “Just because we all hold her in high regard, what kind of message does that send to the voters if we don’t hold all of us accountable including the city clerk?”

Councilwoman Worthing supported this motion, saying this is one way the council can help the clerk with staffing. 

Councilman Mays asked Worthing if she believes Brown would not ask for help if she needed it, and Worthing said no. 

Mays brought up the fact that the city clerk’s office processed over 9,000 absentee ballots in addition to people who came to the polls to vote. 

“That to me is a good job in the middle of a pandemic,” Mays said. 

The motion failed, with 4 yes votes and 5 no votes.

Amy Diaz is a journalist hailing from St. Petersburg, FL. She has written for multiple local newspapers in her hometown before becoming a full-time reporter for Flint Beat. When she’s not writing you...