For students, especially freshman, making housing plans as early
as a month after move-in can be difficult.

Engineering junior Anita Lenny, the Michigan Student
Assembly’s Budget Priorities Committee vice chair, said
freshmen do not have enough time to make suitable housing decisions
for the following year because they have to find people to live
with only about a month after coming to the University.

“I think the main (problem) is lease signing. By signing
leases in October, November, December, we are perpetuating the
problem,” Lenny said.

Last night, Lenny joined a handful of students met in East Hall
to discuss this and other student housing issues as well as
possible ways to bring them to the attention of City Council and
community members.

“The meeting was to initiate student response to many
housing problems that we face on and off campus, and begin to
address and organize around these challenges in order to establish
ourselves as a legitimate voice in current housing discussions
taking place,” said event coordinator Sam Woll, an LSA junior
and vice chair of MSA’s External Relations Committee.

The gathering provided a forum for students to voice their
concerns and to devise an approach for addressing City Council and
community members.

“The goal is to have a follow-up town meeting where
someone from City Council would come and address the issues,”
said Bobby Counihan, Engineering senior and MSA External Relations
chair.

Some of the concerns of the students included early lease
signing, landlord-student relations and building code
violations.

MSA Communications Chair Rachel Fisher said her former landlord
didn’t know enough about how to conduct his job. She said her
landlord misinformed her about the poor quality of the apartment
she leased from him.

“He didn’t know anything about being a landlord.
Students shouldn’t feel threatened in their own houses, and
they should not have to go through legal battles just to have
adequate living situations,” she said.

The impact of off-campus housing on the environment was also
discussed.

LSA senior Ben Chess said that because his building is poorly
insulated, it is an environmental concern. “We want it to be
(insulated), but we don’t have the money. It’s really
expensive to keep up these old houses. The things that make up for
having a historical house are the energy issues,” Chess
said.

During the meeting, students came up with a list of housing
goals and concerns to address. The list included devising a housing
seal of approval that could be used to distinguish
University-approved buildings, creating better student relations
with neighborhood associations and looking to other universities to
find model housing situations. A student-led community clean-up day
was also suggested as a way to show students’ respect for
their surroundings.

“It’s the community of the students as a whole
saying we are going to have this clean-up day and we are going to
have a voice,” Woll said.

Students who were present at the meeting will contribute to and
revise the list. These concerns will eventually be presented at a
City Council meeting as a representation of student’s needs
in regards to housing.

“My immediate goal is to bring our summarized list of
concrete goals from students’ perspectives to show City
Council that we met and organized, and want a working
relationship,” Woll said.

The town hall meeting was student-led and sponsored by student
groups that reach out to Ann Arbor organizations not affiliated
with the University.

“The meeting is primarily sponsored by MSA. …
We’re in charge of lobbying with organizations outside of the
University,” Counihan said.

Woll emphasized the importance of gaining respect from City
Council members and community neighbors, in order to create an
environment where students can voice housing concerns.

“We want to show that we are ready to take a step to be
part of a respectful community and have this respect
reciprocated,” Woll said. “The purpose of this forum
was for students to … prove to the community at large,
including the University and student council, that we have these
concerns.”

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