Ann Arbor City Council met at Larcom City Hall on Monday evening to discuss increasing bike accessibility and the future of the ‘right to renew’ legislation, which would require landlords to offer a lease renewal to current tenants or compensate them for relocation.
During the public hearing portion of the meeting, the council heard from members of the Graduate Employees’ Organization and other local housing units who pushed for them to consider adopting the ‘right to renew’ legislation.
The ‘right to renew’ proposal comes after an Early Leasing Ordinance passed in August 2021, preventing landlords from showing properties to prospective tenants more than 150 days before the end of the current lease. Following the passing of the ordinance, several local tenants expressed frustration with landlords finding loopholes, including allowing people to join waitlists ahead of the 150-day mark.
Housing activists in Ann Arbor have been advocating for an amendment to the city’s rental law to close these loopholes.
University of Michigan alum Zackariah Farah, chair of the Ann Arbor Renter’s Commission, made a public comment during the meeting in support of the ordinance.
“I spoke with countless tenants who wanted to continue living in their homes but were not offered the chance to do so by the landlord,” Farah said. “Most likely because the unit had been listed for a higher price for the subsequent term and someone had contacted the landlord to take that unit. This proposal gives landlords a choice: stop arbitrary non-renewal of leases or pay relocation assistance.”
The U-M Central Student Government released a statement on Sept. 6, endorsing the ‘right to renew’ proposal. LSA junior Karthik Pasupula, speaker of the CSG assembly, told the council this legislation would assist students and the broader Ann Arbor community in finding stable housing.
“People are telling you (that) you have to start renewing or start looking at apartments in October,” Pasupula said. “(In) October you don’t know where everything is on campus, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know where apartments are … So when that initiative passed through CSG, that was a huge help to a lot of people.”
Councilmember Travis Radina, D-Ward 3, is a member of the city’s recently created Renter’s Commission and explained why the council extended the timeline for finalizing the wording of the ordinance.
“We’ve repeatedly met with city attorneys to strengthen the language and engaged with Jennifer Hall at the Housing Commission to ensure we comply with federal and state requirements in this new language,” Radina said. “Good, defensible laws are created through thoughtful deliberation with relevant stakeholders asking questions and sharing ideas.”
Councilmember Jeff Hayner, D-Ward 1, said he supported the proposal but was disappointed with its rhetoric and wanted more input from property owners. He said he would like to move forward with the ordinance so that when it returns to council for another vote, public commenters can voice any concerns.
“I’m going to support this tonight to move into second reading because I’m interested in hearing what people have to say about it, beyond the folks who are championing it.”
Councilmember Erica Briggs, D-Ward 5, said she supported the proposal but looked forward to introducing more enforcement in the future.
“We’re going to need to think about how enforcement occurs and the evaluation of this,” Briggs said. “That is what the Renter’s Commission is going to be working on, and so in our next budget cycle, that’s something that I’ll be looking at.”
The council unanimously approved the first reading. The legislation will be read a second time at a future meeting for further discussion.
Monday’s meeting also involved a resolution to remove parking spots along Division Street between Hoover and Packard Streets to create space for bicyclists. The Division Street bikeway was part of the People-Friendly Streets initiative to encourage non-motorized transportation in the downtown area, which first opened in December 2021.
The city has since conducted a survey seeking public input about expanding the bikeway by removing the parking on Division Street between Packard and Hill Streets. According to the survey, the majority of the participants indicated that the removal of the parking along the bike routes will not impact their travels and will encourage them to bike more.
The council then discussed a proposal by city staff to distribute funding to contract with Sam Schwartz, LLC for a study of the potential transfer of ownership of certain state highways from the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) to the city. The proposed highways entail two sections of Ann Arbor streets: North Main Street and the Washtenaw Avenue/Huron Street/Jackson Road Corridor.
Briggs said she supports the resolution and said MDOT needs to better collaborate with Ann Arbor legislators and law enforcement officials to increase street safety.
“We have, countless times, asked MDOT at this location and many locations across our community to please partner with us and police to create safe streets for our community,” Briggs said. “MDOT has the complete streets policy, and so it’s a little bit unconscionable that they aren’t following this policy.”
The council voted to reject this policy.
Daily Staff Reporters Chen Lyu and Samantha Rich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.