The Ann Arbor City Council has recently
been considering the authorization of a regulation that would
effectively keep residents from placing indoor furniture outside of
their houses. The city claims that this proposed ban is
safety-based, because outdoor furniture can be used in riots to
cause personal injury and property damage. However, this is simply
superficial rationalization aimed at hiding the true motive: The
city is attempting to improve the aesthetic quality of its
neighboorhoods. This anti-student legislation is aimed at ending
the common student practice of placing unsightly sofas and unkempt
furniture on porches and lawns.

Laura Wong

This solution is without merit. If the City Council is concerned
with improving the aesthetic quality of Ann Arbor, it should put
pressure on landlords to provide students with improved housing,
not create baseless laws that single out a marginalized segment of
the population.

A quick drive around Ann Arbor will reveal the furniture that
helps define the scenery in the “student ghettos”
surrounding the University. The presence of this furniture has long
been a grievance of other Ann Arbor residents, who claim that it
lowers the visual quality of the city as a whole.

While definitely an eyesore, the aesthetic consequences of dingy
furniture pale in comparison to the condition of the houses that
the furniture is sitting in front of. Even more than the presence
of the tattered couches, the most pervasive characteristic of
student housing is the dilapidated condition of the buildings
themselves. Many of the houses are literally falling apart, with
siding that is crumbling and paint that was long ago chipping away.
The landlords of Ann Arbor have created a market in which students
have no choice but to pay exorbitant prices for low-quality
residences, and the blame for this problem lies squarely on their
shoulders.

The stated aim of this ban is to promote safety in case of riots
and other public disturbances. This is clearly not the actual
reason for the ban, considering the marked infrequency of riots at
the University. Even if a riot did happen, it would probably occur
in a central area, such as State Street or the Diag, not in
outlying residential areas. Furthermore, the logic behind this new
regulation is faulty. The presence of an outdoor sofa in no way
adds danger to a riot that is already occurring. An individual with
the goal of inflicting personal harm or property damage will find
whatever he can to act as a weapon, not search the streets for a
specific piece of furniture.

It goes without saying that the housing situation in Ann Arbor
offers very few breaks for students. Landlords have exploited
students by forcing them to pay extremely high rents, while at the
same time failing to make many repairs to the houses falling under
their ownership. Ultimately, landlord negligence, not the presence
of outdoor furniture, is the cause of the dilapidated, and visually
unattractive, housing surrounding the University. If Ann Arbor
seriously wants to improve the visual quality of its residences, it
should go after the unfair policies of landlords, not students.

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