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March 15, 1979 - Image 4

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1979-03-15

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Page 4--Thursday, March 15, 1979-The Michigan Daily

Ann Arbor needs a mayor to improve housing

On April 2, Ann Arbor voters will go
to the polls to make known their choices
for mayor and city council. These of-
ficials will be responsible for making
decisions and setting priorities for the,
city. During the past decade, though,
the people who have made the decisions
anal set the priorities have largely
ignored Ann Arbor's most serious
problem-the housing crisis.
There have been four mayors of Ann
Arbor during this decade. Two have
been Democrats; two Republicans. The
Dmocratic mayors have both set up
committees to study the housing
pkblems here: Their findings, have
cgnfirmed the existence of a housing
c~sis. Yet, these mayors did not follow
uP these studies with measures to at-
t k the problems. The Republican
n yors simply ignored the problem
Whope this year's candidates for
nyor and council will recognize the
severity of the housing crisis and begin
td'make proposals for attacking it. But
tl16s far in the campaign, neither of the
mayoral candidates-Democrat Jamie
Kenworthy and Republican Louis
Belcher-have adequately addressed
the issue.
The most recent study of rental
housing was undertaken by former
Mayor Albert Wheeler's Fair Rental
Practices Committee, made up of lan-
dlords, tenants, and interested mem-
bers of the community. They reported
that rental housing in this city is
among"the worst in the nation."
Consider these facts. According to the
Institute for Social Research, the
vacancy rate is less than one per cent.
Based on the 1970 census, rents are 72
per cent higher than the national
average. A city official has recently
statedthat between 30 and 50 per cent
ofcity-inspected housing poses serious
fire and safety hazards to its tenants.
These figures don't exist in a void.
Offer 50 per cent of Ann Arbor residents
aek tenants, most of them students. The
University accounts directly or indirec-
tly, for most of the city's growth. The
University has not made any substan-
tial contribution to new housing since
1968, yet student enrollment has grown
by more than 10 per cent since then.
Tenant groups continue to push for
reform of housing, while the city and

the University ignore the housing
Local housing conditions'are based on
economic factors that result in a pro-
landlord situation. The current lack of
available housing in Ann Arbor
eliminates any competitive incentive
that would check the landlord's profit
and keep his rents reasonable. The
result is that the tenant operates in a
housing market that favors the lan-
dlord's profits over providing housing
In order to educate people abdut this
economic condition, as well as to
propose alternatives and possible
solutions, we have organized an "un-
candidacy" campaign for mayor. The
"uncandidate" for mayor is Louise J.
Fairperson. The group created Louise
to serve as spokesperson on housing
issues. They hope Louise will serve as
an example of community interest to
persuade the city to initiate programs
to eliminate the housing crisis.
Getting the causes of the housing in-
justices must involve an active respon-
se by the University and the city;
tenant activism and community inter-
est can provide external pressure to
promote this response.
Organizers of the Fairperson cam-
paign encourage debate and discussion
of the following proposals by the voters
and present candidates for office.
Unless some of these proposals or other
alternatives are implemented, tenants
will have little control over their
housing situation as does the cardboard
poster figure of Louise J. Fairperson.
A shared response by residents, the
University, and the city, however, can
strengthen the tenants' position,
equalize the tenant/landlord relation-
ship, and improve housing conditions.
One of the major causes of high rents
in Ann Arbor is the continuous rapid
rise in the price of buildings and land.
This rapid appreciation encourages in-
vestors to buy and sell properties
frequently to ensure a large, quick
The anti-speculation tax would be a
special tax on the profit a landlord
makes from the purchase and sale of
property. It would not affect owner-

By The Coalition For Better Housing

Belcher Kenworthy

occupied buildings and would be
graduated to discourage speculation
and encourage landlords to hold onto
their properties for a longer period of
Revenues from the tax would b.e

tenants within the landlord-tenant
Tenants must accept the conditions of
their housing contract because they
have no leverage against the factors
that contribute to a pro-landlord system

fails to make repairs on the building,
the tenant has no means to contest the
terms of the lease when a contract is
being renewed. The landlord is free to
prepare a lease that will serve his/her
profit-seeking motive, despite the fact
that it is the tenant who must pay the
rent each month and abide by the terms
of the lease.
Louise J. Fairperson believes that
strengthening the bargaining power of
individual tenants and tenants' unions
can help eliminate the injustices of the
present system and put the tenant on an
equal footing with the landlord.
Tenants' rights should include the
right to strike, the right to force lan-
dlords to arbitration, and the right to
bargain in good faith.
Landlords collect high rents in Ann
Arbor, but most of their profit comes
not from rent but instead from tax
shelters, equity, and appreciation and
capital gains from the sale of their
Each year, landlords are permitted
to deduct from their taxable income an
alleged depreciation of their property,
even as its value is increasing.
When a landlord sells a' building, the
profit is generally very substantial
because of consistently rising property
values, and the tax a landlord must pay
on that income is reduced because it is
taxed at a lower capital gains tax rate.
Louise J. Fairperson believes that
tenants and taxpayers have the right to
know the full story of landlord profit
and tax avoidance. Information from
rental properties on purchase dates,
purchase price, expenses, depreciation,
sale prices, and capital gains savings
should be kept on open file with the city
An increased summed academic
program at the University would ease
some of the housing pressures during
the fall 'and, winter. Vacancy rates
soar during the summer, and rents
plummet. If the need for student
housing could be more equally
distributed throughout- the year, the
vacancy rate, and thus rents as well,

culd reach more manageable levels all
Louise J. Fairperson is a member of
the Ann Arbor Alternative Holding
Company, a nonprofit community land
trust for people interested in living,
rather than speculating on the land.
The Holding Company views the land as
a resource, like oceans and the st-
mosphere, which came into existence
without human intervention. The
Holding Company views their role as
stewards who hold the land in trust
rather than speculators who secure the
land through ownership.
The land trust holds land for all
people present and future, while protec-
ting the rights of the current residents.
Members of a land trust lease the land
for any period of time and participate in
decisions regarding land use allocation
and other planning decisions.
The Holding Company .is just
beginning to look at buildings in the
community for possible purchase for
the land trust. The biggest drawback to
the growth of the land trust is down-
payment for buildings being sold within
the current market. There are possible
sources for funding within the city. For
example, city pension funds are curren-
tly invested outside the city. If these
funds were used instead to guarantee
mortgages, the Holding Company and
people interested. in owning their own
home would benefit. Since July, 19
cities in the country have initiated city-
guaranteed home mortgages as a way
to help citizens own their own homes.
Such a policy would also help the land
trust grow.
Louise J. Fairpeson's campaign
needs the help and support of tenants
and citizens throughout Ann Arbor. If
you would like to get her message
across during this campaign, call Steve
Kelly (home: 769-9585; work: 763-9920)
or Dan Ruben (home: 769-2017; work:
The Coalition For Better Housing
is a group working to improve
housing in Ann Arbor.

'Neither of the mayoral candidates -
Democrat Jamie Ken worthy (right)
an'd Republican Louis Belcher (left) -
have adequately addressed the housing

earmarked either for new housing con-
struction or for renovating existing
Louise J. Fairperson believes that
part of the solution to the housing crisis
must involve increasing the power of

of housing. These factors include lack
of supply, insufficient mechanisms for
obtaining injunctions to repair, and
limitations of the court system in
resolving landlord-tenant disputes.
Although the tenant currently has the
right to withhold rent if the landlord


- ---- ----- - ..... . .....

420 Maynard S., Ann Arbor, MI 48109
Eight v-Nine Years of I ditatiI > re edom
Vol. LXXXIX, No. 130
News Phone: 764-0552
Edited and managed by students at the University of Michigan

Saudi Arabia in no danger

tivestiture is
W HEN THE Regents hold their
monthly meetings today and
toynorrow, they will discuss some very
ci4icial University issues such as next
year's tuition rate, the possible merger
btween the Speech and Journalism
departments, and the school's energy
pojicy. These issues are obviously im-
pc@rtant to all members of the Univer-
sity community and deserve the
R4gents' special attention.
But there is one issue, wnicn also af-
fefts all members of the , University
community, in which the Board is ex-
pected to only devote-a small portion of
tifme. That is the highly sensitive issue
of University holdings in banks and
corporations operating in the apar-
theid regime in South Africa.
The University holds investments in
4+ corporations and numerous banks
dping business in South Africa. This
investment portfolio has provoked
sharp opposition from the Washtenaw
County Coalition Against Apartheid
who call for the Regents to divest
University holdings from South Africa.
The students then voted by a 2-1
margin last April demanding that the
Board pull out of South Africa as soon
as possible.
The Regents, in an attempt to soften
criticism of their investment policies,
voted in last year's March meetings to
send a questionnaire to all banks and
corporations holding University funds.
The questionnaire called for the banks
axd corporations to affirm the anti-

;sue important
in South Africa. The principles urge in-
tegration in public places, equal oppor-
tunity, equal pay for comparable work,
development of training programs, in-
creasing the number of non-whites in
management, and improving the'
quality of lives outside the working en-
Then in October, the Regents
received the responses from the banks
and corporations. An official of the
University's Investment Office presen-
ted the responses but the Board sub-
sequently ended discussion of the mat-
Since then, the Regents have not
discussed any aspects of the
divestiture controversy except to in-
dicate in their February meetings that
further discussion of the matter in
March is not needed to comply with
their vow in last March's resolution
saying they would review the issue
within a year.
Now a year has passed and their only
action has been to hear a University of-
ficial say that the school has received
all the responses from the banks and
corporations. Regent Robert
Nederlander (D-Birmingham), said
recently that "we reviewed the report
in October and the next review will be
done next October."
The ten minutes the Board devoted
to the issue at last October's meeting
was only a shallow review of the
divestiture issue. Claiming that that
meeting complied with their March

of anI
The political demise of the
Shah and the disruption of
Iranian oil supplies have
triggered fears thatssimilar
troubles are brewing across the
Gulf in Saudi Arabia.
Will Saudi Arabia be the next
petro-dominio to fall? Will the
Saudi dynasty of King Khalid go
the way of the Shah's Pahlavi
dynasty? The prevailing opinion
among press and government
commentators suggests that it
Joseph Kraft states "the oil
giant has feet of clay;" William
Safire predicts a "sheikh-out" of
Saudi leadership in the coming
year. Zbigniew 'Brzezinski,
President Carter's national
security adviser, puts the Saudis
at the center of his "arc of
crisis." Echoed elsewhere, the
notion persists that oil-wealth
and Islamic fundamentalism
don't mix-that as Iran goes, so
goes Saudi Arabia.
twice flawed. It suggests, first,
that events in oil-rich Islamic
nations must follow American
preconceived notions. And,
secondly, it is founded on an
abysmal lack of knowledge or
understanding of Saudi Arabian
politics, religion and society.
Consider these facts:
- The term "Saudi Arabia" was
never once mentioned in
Congressional debate in the three
years prior to the 1973 oil em-
" Scholarly American
knowledge of Saudi Arabia is vir-
tually non-existent. Only one
book on the history of Saudi
Arabia has ever been published
in the U.S. and;
" No U.S. news correspondent
presently based in the region has
a working knowledge of Arabic
(nor did the CIA Station Chief
who served recently in Saudi
Arabia for five years).
Given this vacuum of
knowledge and experience, the
question of stability in Saudi
Arabia is best divided into three
aspects: the Saudi's vulnerability
to external threats; the present
domestic political situation inside
Saudi Arabia; and the longer

damage andreduced production
for six weeks. Today, the
pipelines bearing 97 per cent of
Saudi oil converge into a single
refining and shipping complex at
Ras Tanura. For all the visible
security precautions, the facility
remains vulnerable to a one-time,
sabotage operation by trained'
commandoes from abroad.
"WE WORRY", said a senior
Saudi security official, "because
we have natural wealth, long
borders, and few people. With
few natural barriers like forests
or rivers, our desert is wide
open." Yet except fpr the
violatile current situation in Iran,
the external threats to Saudi
security at the moment are not
The Iraqis, long a hostile power
to the North, are now preoc-
cupied with purging Communists
from their Baathist regime,,even
though they remain fundamen-
tally hostile to the Saudi monar-
chy and continue to welcome its
enemies to Baghdad. The Egyp-
tians in the 19th century twice in-
vaded Arabia and deposed Saudi
rulers. In the 1960's Nasser
nearly succeeded in, doing the
same thing, and in the post-Sadat
future,.the pattern could perhaps
recur. But for the moment
neither Arab state poses an ex-
ternal threat to the Saudis.
In the Horn of Africa, the
arrival in recent years of 17,000
Cuban military advisors has been
a cause of considerable anxiety.
And on Saudi Arabia's southern
borders, North and South Yemen
pose different problems. With
more Yemenis working in Saudi
Arabia than in either of the two
Yemens, the migrant workers
are regarded as a potential fifth
column. A chronically unstable
republic, North Yemen has gone
through four presidents in four
Soviets have naval and guided
missile facilities, several hun-
dred East Germans who run the
security and intelligence ser-
vices, and about 2,000 Cubans
who instruct the local comman-

largely illiterate Saudi land for-
ces would not fare well. The
Royal Saudi Air Force, with only
137 planes and 100 trained fighter
pilots, might delay a determined
invader, perhaps give him a
bloody nose. But for man'y years
to come, the Saudis' only credible
deterrent and assurance of
security will be America's own
military need to defend the prin-
cipal supplier of Western oil.
threats to Saudi Arabia have
failed to materialize, a repetition
of the "Khomeini. Syndrome" of
opposition from the traditional
religious establishment inside
Saudi Arabia is even less likely
because Saudi Arabia is already
a theocracy.
The leading family of religious
leaders, the Al ash-Sheikh, are
heavily intermarries with the
ruling House of Saud, who seek
their advice and blessing for all
policy decisions. The "Libyan
Scenario" of an armed forces
takeover directed by some
unknown Qaddafi also seems im-
probable. The land forces are
drawn mos'tly from the, royal
province of Nejd and from con-
servative tribal elements fiercely
loyal to the Saudi family. The
elite Air Force is cobwebbed with
trained young princes in com-
mand positions, so a .military
coup seems no more likely than a,
post office coup.
Nor is a secular revolt any
more likely than a religious or
military one.
A middle class, as such, does
not exist in Saudi Arabia, a
traditional society organized
largely along tribal lines. The
closest counterpart is the mer-
chant clans of Jidda and the
young Ph.D's in government,
whose interests are firmly wed-
ded to the regime which
generates and dispenses their
wealth. When everyone can keep
going back for more pie, there is
noticeably little concern for how
it is sliced.
THE FACT is that Saudi
society is strikingly stable, vir-
tually unique in the Middle East

By Peter Iseman

Islamic Revolution

study and travel eventually all
go home . There they
acknowledge censorship exists,
but they fine nothing objec-
tionable about it, because of their
total confidence in their society
and the regime which rules it.
Change in Saudi Arabia is not the
result of agitation from below,
but reform guided from above.
The country, in fact, is most
emphatically not "another Iran."
It is strikingly different frommost
other societies.
Saudi Arabia is, perhaps best
described as the only family-
owned business recognized at the
U.N. Or, as one American-
educated prince explains it, "We
are not just working for the
system; we are the system."
Thus the traditional sources of
crisis, those which American ex-
perts look to-succession, ex-
ternal aggression and internal
dissent are relatively stable, if
not insignificant, in Saudi Arabia.
But there is a crisis of another
kind, and Americans are playing
an unwitting role in it.
THE NATIVE population of
Saudi Arabia is about four
million, but half of them are too
old or too young to be a part of the
work force; half are women ex-
cluded from public life, and only
about one in eight can read and
write Arabic.
Thus there are only about
250,000 adult male literate Saudis
trying to manage a society driven
headlong by iol revenues of about
$1 billion a week.
Because of the slow increase in
the number of skilled Saudis, the
mounting difficulties are largely
a function of the amount of oil
they produce. The Saudis cannot
absorb even half the present
revenue from production, so the
remainder can only be justified
on political grounds, as the price
they pay to the United States for
supporting their security.
Under these circumstances,
the greatest long term threat to
Saudi Arabia's stability is the
destabilizing influence of con-
tinuing, massive oil production


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