Despite waiting until January to look for a place to live next year, Engineering freshman Alex Manwell and two of his friends weren’t worried as they wandered through the carnival-like booths at the University’s Housing Fair in the Michigan Union Ballroom Monday afternoon.
Just over a month into the leasing period for many off-campus properties, most students and landlords said they were content with this year’s housing market.
“There is a lot more available than I thought there would be,” Manwell said.
That may or may not be the result of a new housing law. Last March, the Ann Arbor City Council passed an ordinance prohibiting landlords from showing properties and signing leases until 90 days into the current leasing period. For most leases, that meant potential renters couldn’t sign until Dec. 1. A clause in the ordinance requires its review by the City Council this spring.
Before the ordinance, students often felt pressured to sign leases as early as September. Freshmen in particular were often forced into a market that they may not have understood.
Several landlords said they are faring better than last year.
Kelley Deegan, a representative from Willowtree Apartments on North Campus, said new leases at the complex are up from last year.
Deegan said she thought the ordinance, which many area landlords opposed, ended up being a good thing for her company. She said the ordinance created a rush in early December and added a sense of urgency to sign leases then.
LSA sophomore Amanda Adelson said she enjoyed the extra time to scout properties.
“I like the later (leasing period),” she said. “Last year we definitely felt rushed.”
Several students said they used the extra time to research properties on the Internet before going to the fair.
But student reliance on the Web created a problem for some smaller rental companies. The University prohibited landlords from advertising on its off-campus housing website until after the Dec. 1 deadline had passed.
Because of this, David Copi, who owns Copi Properties, said his company couldn’t reach its rental base.
Carle Svitil, an assistant in the University’s off-campus housing office, said his office didn’t allow the advertisements because it doesn’t have enough staff to sort through the posting requests and determine whether the postings violated the new ordinance.
Previously, the housing office did not allow advertising until after the housing fair, which was held in October. It was pushed back this year because of the measure.
The office made a uniform decision to prohibit all advertising until December, regardless of whether or not the landlord has a signed wavier for the property from the current renter, which would put it on the market legally.
Copi said he was upset because he obtained waivers from tenants for some of his properties.
“The new ordinance has been a disservice to students and landlords,” he said. “It just limits the choice of students.”
Other rental companies said leasing is going smoothly.
“Our housing market is fine,” said Doug Turner of Migraine Acres. Turner relies mostly on word-of-mouth endorsements from current tenants, he said.
On Monday, Turner said he only had one house left and that he already has prospective tenants on waiting lists for the 2008-2009 school year.
But University Towers, the 19-story apartment complex on South Forest Avenue, is struggling to fill its vacancies for next year.
According Denise Jackson, who coordinates leasing for the complex, only half of the complex is leased for next year. She said that at this time last year, the building was full.
“It’s kind of like at a standstill right now,” she said. “We’re not happy.”
Jackson said that fewer renters have renewed their leases than in past years.
Two current University Towers tenants, Business school sophomore Rupal Patel and LSA sophomore Avanti Jangalapalli, said the complex’s rate hike discouraged them from renewing their lease.
“For the price and space that they give us, it’s too expensive,” Patel said.
Jackson, though, wasn’t sure why renters weren’t coming back to the building. She said rents rise every year without causing a drastic drop in renters.
A sampling of listings for off-campus housing still available
715 Hill St.
5 units available
3660 Windemere Dr
3 units available
2 units available
828 Greene St
1 unit available
912 S. Forest St.
1 unit available