The rise and fall of the Ann Arbor Tenants Union

Published October 20, 2004

The Ann Arbor Tenants Union was founded in 1968 after University
students protested the exorbitant rents of off-campus housing.

Its 11-person staff was composed primarily of volunteers,
including five students.

The AATU served both Ann Arbor natives and the student
community, providing legal advice and information pertaining to
landlord-tenant issues.

With financial troubles mounting, the AATU was settling into its
new home in the William Monroe Trotter House by early 2003.

Typically, the Michigan Student Assembly gave between 5 and 10
percent of its budget to the AATU.

In a letter from the AATU board of directors to MSA, dated Feb.
7, 2003, the AATU sought payment for its services: “As you
know and acknowledged at a meeting last month, we have completely
fulfilled our fall 2002 service agreement and are entitled to
immediate payment of the balance of the $20,000 owed. … The
bottom line is that we are providing services to students at no
cost to MSA for winter, 2003. This is patently unfair to the AATU
and not an appropriate response to our having fulfilled the fall,
2002 contract in an exemplary budgetary fashion.”

During the 2003 MSA elections, 58 percent of student voters
supported a ballot initiative that would raise tuition $1 per
student to raise AATU funding. But MSA never increased its funding,
nor did it negotiate a new tenant service contract, thereby leading
to the union’s demise. MSA officials have responded by saying
the AATU was ineffective.