Beginning as a studio for one man”s urban planning business, Arbor Vitae grew into an atypical residence for University students. With five residents living in a loft with no “real ceilings” or individual bedrooms, trust is a vital part of Arbor Vitae.

Paul Wong
Landlord Rich Ahern and residents Scott Trudeau, Linda Myers and Canaan Albright live in Arbor Vitae, an alternative living arrangement on campus.<br><br>LAURIE BRESCOLL/Daily

For some students at the University, “alternative” living arrangements like Arbor Vitae offer better and more interesting housing on campus than a typical apartment or residence hall. Students who choose to live in alternative housing can pick from a host of settings in which to spend either several months or a whole year, like the loft setup of Arbor Vitae.

“The first thing that attracts attention is the 23-foot ceiling and the spaciousness. The second thing is people like the people living here,” said Rich Ahern, the live-in landlord of Arbor Vitae above Bivouac on South State Street.

“There is no “lease” by normal standards because as soon as there”s a legal agreement, that says “I don”t trust you.” I just don”t want warm bodies to fill the rooms,” Ahern said.

For Washtenaw Community College sophomore and Arbor Vitae resident Canaan Albright, “the feature that fancied me most was the idea that I could get away from the commercial aspects of college life. Living here you”re not over-saturated with people, it”s like a streaming consciousness of ideas a lot of rules seem to disappear because of the constant interaction with people.”

While Arbor Vitae is one of the more liberal living environments near campus, other houses, including those in the Inter-Cooperative Council, blend living and learning into one setting.

Telluride House and the all-female co-op Henderson House ask students to meet a special set of requirements to live there.

“The main mission here is centered around community service and our annual project, which is with Ozone House this year. That is the only requirement for the students living here,” said Grace Edwards, Telluride House counselor of public relations.

Students wishing to live in Telluride House must complete an application but once selected are rewarded with free room and board and a “self-governing body” of students.

Co-ops like Henderson House have students sharing common cleaning and cooking activities. About 20 women live at Henderson House, including LSA junior Rana Irby.

“Like most co-ops we cook our own meals, clean the house, and each resident has to do five hours of chores each week, like cleaning the bathrooms or commons area,” Irby said.

“Henderson House is very affordable as well, as it offers an environment that in my opinion makes that transition from dorm to apartment or house easier. It offers pretty much an experience of being responsible for what you have to do because it affects not just you but those you live with.”

Living situations where schooling is provided within the direct confines of the house or residence hall are common at the University. Chabad House provides men with a chance to live with other Jewish students and take classes.

“It”s a Jewish house with classes, meals and services for Jewish students that would like to have these experiences, but if someone is not Jewish and would like those experiences, they”re welcome too,” said Chabad House Director Aharon Goldstein.

Amenities at Chabad House “range from classes on Judaism, Hebrew and Jewish philosophy, with staff, a library, a lounge and counseling services” Goldstein added.

The Greek system, although not cooperative living, houses the most students seeking alternative housing, by providing “all inclusive” packages for residents.

“Living in my sorority house was a good experience because there is always someone to hang out with,” said Kinesiology junior Jodie Nyenhuis. “It”s ideal because all our bills, food, and parking are covered. But the most important thing is the amount of girls because studywise usually you have at least one person in a class to study with.”

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