Student tenants sounded off as the ongoing tug-of-war over a proposal to push back leasing dates in Ann Arbor heated up last night in the chambers of the Michigan Student Assembly.
MSA’s External Relations Committee held the public hearing for students and community members to express their views about the proposed ordinance.
Members of the newly formed City Council Student Relations Committee – which includes City Council members Leigh Greden (D-Ward 3) and Wendy Woods (D-Ward 5), as well as five student representatives – ran yesterday’s forum.
Representatives from the committee will present a recommendation about the ordinance to City Council at some point between Feb. 8 and Feb. 20. After considering the dialogue at last night’s meeting, as well as the recommendation of the committee, the council will decide whether or not to approve the measure. If approved in February, the lease date ordinance will appear on a citywide ballot in March.
The current language of the ordinance prohibits landlords from showing properties to prospective tenants until one-fourth of the current lease period has lapsed.
Backers of the ordinance say it would especially benefit first-year students, who suffer from having to sign a lease for their sophomore year in October after only being at the University for one or two months.
“Many students end up living with people they barely know,” said MSA Rep. Rese Fox said at the hearing.
The ordinance would allow students more to time to look at resources like the Office of Off-Campus Housing website, Fox said.
Dan Jones, a local landlord, said the ordinance will hurt the housing market, especially at his “mom-and-pop” business. Jones also said a shorter housing season would mean he might have to lay off one of his employees who he would no longer need.
Fox said landlords would have happier tenants if they were given enough time to get to know the people with whom they choose to live.
LSA junior Joe Golden said the ordinance would reward good landlords because students would have time to find the landlords who offer the best properties and living conditions.
But not all students were in favor of the ordinance. LSA sophomore Clark Ruper said it would cause a rush of students camping out in the cold the night before the leases can be signed. “I signed my lease in November,” Ruper said. “No matter the date, there will still be a rush, but at least it is warmer in September.”
In a hearing last November about the issue, landlords far outnumbered students. This time, it was the opposite.
MSA’s City Council liaison, Laura Van Hyfte, said last night’s meeting was a success because the event was highly publicized and because the External Relations Committee was well prepared.
A mass of students flooded MSA chambers. MSA President Jesse Levine estimated over 100 people were present at the meeting. Organizers almost had to shift the hearing to a larger room to avoid a fire hazard.
A controversy broke out when landlords said they were concerned students might try to avoid the constraints of the ordinance by knocking on doors to view the properties.
Shari Pomprantz, a member of Students for PIRGIM, pointed out part of realtors’ websites that not only condoned such behavior, but also offered to help.
Landlord Fred Gruber jumped up and screamed at Pomprantz that the websites she had found did not represent all Ann Arbor property owners. Woods had to calm him down.
Woods said she wasn’t surprised by the passion and preparedness of students last night, but she will continue to hear both sides before deciding.
Greden said the “very informational” hearing brought up great points, but he has not decided whether he supports the ordinance.