Students bring concerns over housing search to CSG town hall

Monday, October 29, 2018 - 10:26pm

Dean of Students Laura Blake Jones discusses housing options for the 2019-2020 school year at the Michigan League Monday evening.

Dean of Students Laura Blake Jones discusses housing options for the 2019-2020 school year at the Michigan League Monday evening. Buy this photo
Keemya Esmael/Daily

As students begin the search for their housing arrangements for next year, the University of Michigan’s Central Student Government held a town hall Monday night to address the challenges of finding off-campus housing.

CSG president Daniel Greene, a Public Policy senior, began the town hall discussing the dynamics of student and landlord relationships.

“A lot of students blindly sign their lease,” Greene said. “They don’t know the information they should look out for, and a lot of students find themselves unsure of what to do when they have a conflict with their landlord or housing management company.”

Dean of Students Laura Blake Jones followed Greene, going into further detail about the resources that are available to students searching for help. The University offers resources including Tenant Rights and Responsibilities materials, Student Legal Services for issues with landlords and more.

“We’re committed to making sure that when you move off campus and go into residential environments that you have those that are among the highest quality,” Jones said.

According to Jones, now is a stressful time for students, as many landlords begin to accept applications and deposits during the fall semester.

For many freshmen, the search for off-campus housing can begin only a few months into their college careers and can present many obstacles for those unfamiliar with the ins and outs of securing and negotiating housing contracts.  

“We’ve been working really hard to correct a misperception that you have to rush and be in a hurry to make a decision about your housing for the subsequent year,” she said. “We’re working really hard with landlords and city officials to make it more comfortable for you to know, at whatever time of the year is right for you, that you will be able to find housing that works for you.”

LSA sophomore Mikaela Uddfolk said she signed a lease by the end of October of her freshman year. Uddfolk, who is currently living in an off-campus apartment, said due to her plans to study abroad next year, the process has been significantly less stressful compared to her freshman year.

“I’m planning on finding a sublease for next year,” she said. “If I was just starting to look into housing now, to actually sign a lease, I think I’d be pretty stressed out.”

Uddfolk said it would be helpful if the University included information about the housing search during orientation so new students could be better prepared for it.

Among the other speakers at the event was Gayle Rosen, an attorney working for Student Legal Services, the University’s law office for students. Rosen is in charge of advising students in negotiating their leases and housing contracts.

“We do anything from renewing leases to helping you with security deposits, as well as helping you deal with construction, noise, eating issues, air conditioning issues and permitting emotional support animals,” Rosen said.

The event also included a question and answer session with student representatives from Beyond the Diag, the university’s program intended to “improve off-campus safety resources, communication, and education for UM students.” Jones specifically referred to the program in her comments, citing the support they provide to undergraduates.

“A lot of people think their problem or concern is a little too personal or specific to them,” Jones explained. “I want you to know that our help can be very personalized to your needs. If you come in and seek the support, we will find a way to work with your concerns.”

Housing prices in Ann Arbor have long been on the rise. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median rate for rent in Ann Arbor has increased 14 percent from 2010 to 2015 and now sits at approximately $1,075 per month. 

Last spring CSG received backlash for its Campus Affordability Guide, which offered tips to make University living more affordable. Suggestions such as cutting down on housekeeping services, laundry delivery or limiting impulse purchases were deemed out of touch by much of the student body. Students responded negatively to the Guide, calling it “out of touch.” Public Policy senior Lauren Schandevel and LSA senior Griffin St. Onge, in collaboration with other student groups, wrote an abridged guide called Being Not-Rich at UM which improved the advice from CSG for low-income students. CSG and students involved with the Being Not-Rich guide agreed to work together on a new guide for the student body.