The University’s fifth annual
Housing Fair is an invaluable tool for students planning to live
off campus. The fair, which takes place today from 1 to 5:30 p.m.
in the Michigan Union, is the perfect venue for future tenants to
learn about the various housing options near campus, from
commercial rental homes and apartments, to co-ops. The Housing Fair
will also give students the opportunity to learn about
student-friendly University resources, like Student Legal Services,
that can help students with complicated housing issues like
evaluating leases and mediating landlord disputes. Unfortunately,
for many students the Housing Fair comes too late, as the
city’s faulty market pressures have already pressured them to
sign leases for next fall.

Angela Cesere

The unmistakably prevalent early lease dates for student housing
in Ann Arbor make it harder to live off-campus. With only a month
and a half to make critical leasing decisions, students have
insufficient time to effectively absorb the social, economic and
geographic factors that typically play into housing decisions. From
location to roommates to competing landlord maintenance policies,
University students have scarce time to effectively evaluate their
housing options. The early dates for signing these legally binding
leases have also taken a toll on University programs with
conflicting timetables. For example, students contemplating being
Resident Advisors might be deterred because the selection process
does not let potential RAs know whether they have been chosen until
winter term — well after most students have signed leases for
the next year. Additionally, the Greek system cites competition
from off-campus leases signed in the fall as the main reason for
delaying the long-overdue move to winter Rush.

First-year students who desire to live off-campus, however, are
particularly hurt by the early lease dates. The system forces these
students still getting familiar with campus to choose housing for
their second year at the University before they have completed
their first term. These students may not yet know what they desire
in off-campus housing, and are unlikely to even know their new
friends well enough to choose potential roommates.

Unfortunately, recent years have only made the situation worse
for off-campus tenants. The demise of the Ann Arbor Tenants Union
cost students a vital resource for negotiating within the housing
market. While Michigan Student Assembly President Jason Mironov
worked to develop a substitute for the AATU, the only tangible
result thus far is a website allowing students to post feedback on
landlords. Though a commendable first step, this website is not
nearly enough.

It is unrealistic to expect either landlords or students to push
back lease dates voluntarily. Students sign early leases for fear
of being otherwise unable to find housing in a tight market.
Landlords, who stand to suffer financially if they allow vacancies
have an incentive to make sure their properties are leased before
their competitors. Instead, University administrators, student
government and the city of Ann Arbor need to collaborate with
landlords to find a compromise and move lease dates back to winter

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