Simply put, housing is a mess. It’s a bigger mess than a front lawn the morning after game day. It’s more complicated than a biology exam the day after Halloween. Most stressful of all, thoughts of where to live, who to room with, what to pay for and which companies to deal with engulf students’ minds. If first-year students haven’t already found an apartment or house by the time this is published, say “hello” to another 5-by-5 dorm room with that same roommate you haven’t decided if you like or not.
In February 2006, Ann Arbor City Council passed an ordinance stating that lease-signing would be prohibited until one-third of the current lease period has passed. The ordinance also allows house showings to prospective tenants after a quarter of the lease period has passed.
However, this ordinance only affects September-to-September leases. To evade this ordinance, many landlords changed their leases to May-to-May. This loophole in the language exempts many properties from the ordinance’s measures, which are clearly beneficial to students.
Tears do not need to be shed over this problem — there are simple solutions. Ann Arbor needs to set a standard date for all landlords to begin signing on houses or apartments, regardless of a September-to-September or a May-to-May lease. That date needs to be in the second semester. Freshmen should not have to scramble to decide which people they met within the past few blurry weeks they actually could live with. Students considering study abroad for the following year should not have to chose to live in a dorm in September. You may have been best friends with your roommate in the beginning of the year and then find out your personalities don’t mesh just right. Unfortunately, you’ve already signed a lease — tying yourself to that person for at least the coming year.
The solution is simple: Give people more time. We need it. College is a time of growth and discovery — people change and that’s ok and expected. Please give us the beginning of the year to worry about exams, papers, social lives, money and the football season, instead of housing. Winter semester is generally less dramatic than the fall. Housing crises may actually be entertaining at that point.
Setting a standard for when house and apartment leases are allowed to be signed will not stop students from knocking on doors in October or recruiting people to live with early on. It will, however, give students time to figure out their wants and needs, who they can envision as a roommate and their best option for the following year. This way, students can be flexible early on and focus on more important activities. Ann Arbor’s economic vitality is dependent on its 25,000 students. Allowing students to sign a lease at a reasonable time will not harm landlords — their properties will still sell out. City Council should push the ordinance’s dates to the winter semester. It is the simplest way to end the unnecessary and untimely stress placed on students.
Adrienne Roberts is an LSA sophomore.