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September 02, 1970 - Image 36

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1970-09-02

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Page Four-Student Life

THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Wednesday, September 2, 1970,f 1

Tenants

nion:

Survival

through

tactical

change

By RICK PERLOFF,
The Ann Arbor Tenants Union
is cultivating.patience, nurturing
optimism, and looking toward
the future as it strives to a'c
complish its primary goal: de-
velopment into a permanent or-
ganization which gives tenants
control of apartment policies
and insures the protection of
"tenants rights."
The union was organized in
the winter of 1969 around a
massive withholding of rent pay-
ments from about 10 major
landlords, including Summit As-
sociates, Charter Realty, Apart-
ments Limited, and Campus.

Management. The rent strike
was begun in order to pressure
the management companies into
recognizing the union as the
bargaining agent of their ten-
ants.
But since only a relatively
small management company has
recognized the union so far, ind
because of a dearth of strikers,
the rent strike is being sharply
deemphasized.
In the spring of 1969, a large
number of students pledged to
withhold rent and the union be-
lieves that, had the semester
not ended, it could have "broken
the landlords." In addition it
was given $1000 in financial

support by the United Auto
Workers Union. At the same
time, rent strikers were con-
tinually being awarded reduc-
tion in back rent when landlords
brought them to court for with-
holding rent payments.
However, the union experi-
enced a slump last fall. Though
it said.it would gain 2000, strike
pledges, it had only several hun-
dred by October and 750 in No-
vember. This was not producing
the pressure the union believed
essential to force landlords in-
to recognizing the union.
By the end of the term there
was some talk of stopping the
effort completely.

But in January the Tenants
Union deemphasized the rent
strike, deciding to concentrate
on gaining signatures of a ma-
jority of a landlord's tenants
who want to be represented by
the union. Union officials be-
lieve this will demonstrate that
the union is not a ,small group
of activists and does, in fact,
represent the tenants.
But the deenphasis, of the
strike, on which the union was
founded, should not be inter-
preted as marking the end of
the union. On the contrary,
union leaders say they now rec-
ognize that strategies must be
altered to adapt to the chang-
ing situation.
In January, the union decided
to picket several landlords' of-
fices, including Louis Rome, the
former director of the state
crime commission. The union'
claims Rome's resignation in
March was partially a result of
the union's. picketing, which
caused attention to be focused
on Rome's code violations in
Ann Arbor.
The union was founded on a
variety of principles, the most
basic being the generally social-
istic belief of its founders that
tenants have the right to con-
trol their, own lives. The union's
function is to help tenants gain
this control, and, once this has
been accomplished, to preserve
and protect the "rights" of ten-
ants.
The most fundamental right,
according to Nancy Wechsler,
the editor of the union newslet-
ter, is one of decent, housing.
And that, she says, has been
sorely lacking in Ann Arbor.
Union personnel cite a num-
ber of examples to demonstrate
their belief that the housing
situation in Ann Arbor is poor
and in need of remedy.
They maintain that rents are
entirely too high, comparable.
they contend, with those of mid-
town Manhattan. They say that
some landlords are making a
20 per cent profit off ,heir
buildings, which, they maintain,
far exceeds. the national aver-
age which is closer to eight per
cent.
And .what are tenants receiv-
ing for these "outrageous
rents?" the union asks. It con-
tends that buildings are fre-

quently poorly-maintained, that
tenants will often have to wait
weeks for repairs to be made and
even then, the union says, the
building may not even meet the
city code.
Characterizing the landlot ds
as "'greedy capitalists," the
union cites examples of land-
lord harassment of rent strik-
ing tenants and threatening
phone calls some landlords have
made to parents of tenants, de-
manding that the tenants pay
up or be evicted.
The union also opposes a
damage deposit that most land-
lords in the city require as a
protection against tenants cau;-
ing damage to the department
and then leaving. The union
contends that, on the contrary,
landlords frequently do not re-
turn the .deposits and it claims
that the deposit is simply an-
other way landlords make money
at tenants' expense: through the
interest which accumulates on
the deposit.
The union has been pressing
landlords to lower rents, im-
prove maintenance and elimi-

nate the damage deposit. It has
met mixed success on these
scores.
Rents have remained at their
same levels, and are expected
to increase this fall.
But maintenance has improv-
ed and service has quickened.
This is believed to be at least
partly the result of the union's
pressure on landlords through
the rent strike.
In addition, the city adopted
a new housing code in February,
which was drafted in large part
by members .of the Tenants
Union. The code provides for a
daily $5 fine .for those landlords
who do not correct violations
within a specific period. The.
union believes that this measure
-as well as stricter building in-
spection provisions-will exert
some pressure on landlords to
provide better maintenance.
But the union considers these
only small-term successes and is
still working toward recognition
from landlords. At this point,
though, most landlords do not
trust the union and disagree
with it on most issues.

"They're unreasonable peo-
ple," says Bob Schram, manager.
of Charter Realty. "I don't see
how we could ever meet, their
demands."
Landlords also maintain that
the union is not representative-
of their E tenants,. but consists
only of an ad hoc group of ac-
tivists. The union realizes this ,
and says it is seeking to in-
crease its representation among
tenants.
Landlords also. dispute the
union's claim that rents are ex-
cessively high. They contend
that the city has a high. cost of
living and high property taxes,
which force rents up.
Some landlords admit that
there may be shoddy mainten-
ance in Ann Arbor, but they
usually place the blame on small-
er companies. And they sharply
dispute the union's contention
that they don't return damage
deposits. Landlords say that
The two sides appear to face
they return practically every
deposit and maintain, that it is

an irresolvable conflict-a situ-
ation that appears basically un-
changed since the union's incep-
tion last year. But union offi-
cials say theyoare not shaken by
the situation, pointing to the
class conflict they believe in-
herent between tenants and
landlords. The union, like other
radical groups, views its history
as a struggle with gains and
setbacks. Indeed, it has experi-
enced both.
The outlook for fall is hazy.
While a number of the union's
top leaders are returning, it is
unclear just how much pressure
the new strategies, can bring to
bear on management companies.
But despite the haziness of
the fall and the setbacks the
union has encountered, many
observers consider it significant
that the union is alive now,
that it has not--like many cam-
pus groups-given up and fallen
by the wayside.
For despite its problems and
its apparent lack of dramatic
success, at this point the Ten-
ants Union has met one crucial
test: survival.

Ar

the tenants who skip
avoid payment..

town to

Housing shortage critical

-Daily-Nancy wechsler

By RICK PERLOFF
This town is short on housing.
It has been for over a decade, and willl
be especially tight this fall as the annual
rise in Ann Arbor's populaltion is expected
to cause the number of apartment hunters
to rise-with the number of apartments
remaining about the same.
And although there will probably be
apartments available, they will not all be
the kind of housing students prefer: apart-
ments close to campus with moderate
rents.
The major management -companies say
they expect few vacancies in the fall. Ann
Arbor has a two per cent vacancy rate, as
compared to the national average which
veers closer to 10 per cent.
"Things are going to be damn tight-
if not critical-next fall," says Edward
Salowitz, assistant director of University
housing. His view is echoed more force-
fully by Daniel Boothby, a student who
prepared a Student Government Council
referendum on University construction of
low-cost housing last spring.
Boothby asks, "Where are the factors
that promise relief? Enrollments are note
going to drop. Ann Arbor is going to grow
and there is no sign people are going to
build single student apartments in large
quantity.
"In the interim, rents will have skyrock-
eted (management companies do expect
a rise in rents' this fall), forcing. more
people to live farther away from campus,
and people will continue to live in un-
certified buildings."
Thus, students will likely find it more
and more difficult to locate the kind of
close-to-campus, moderate rent apart-
ments they desire.
What particularly disturbs student rad-
icals is their belief that the gradual rise
in rents-which they say was \produced by
the increase in enrollment and conse-
quential lowering of apartment vacancies
-forced out a number of working people,
particularly blacks. These people could
not afford to pay the steadily-rising rents

and consequently moved outside Ann Ar-
bor-to Dexter, Ypsilanti and other com-
munities.
And the situation seems bound to worsen.
There are no new buildings planned for
the near future and it can take as many
as three years to construct low-cost dwel-
lings.
The possibility of a shortage occuring in
University dormitories is unblear. Housing
officials believe there will be enough space
in the dorms for returning students and
incoming freshmen. But if the enrollment
increase exceeds their estimates, the dorms
could face a shortage similar to last fall.
An inordinate number of freshmen were
unable to obtain accommodations in the
residence halls last year, and had to be
put up in the Michigan Union,; League and
temporarily in dorm cafeterias.
The housing office is, in the meantime;
working to alleviate the problem. Four
hundred extra spaces for this fall have
been provided for in East Quad, South
Quad, and Cotizens. In addition, the North
Campus Cooperative, scheduled to open
in the fall, will house 216 students.
But students who find housing for this
fall have only latched on to a temporary
solution. The long-range answer clearly
involves the construction of large numbers
of low-cost housing units in Ann Arbor.
And the question is, who should con-
struct them?
Management companies do not expect
any construction in the forseeable future,
the city is concentrating on building ap-
artments geared for low-income dwellers
-and that leaves the University.
An SGC referendum, passed by students
last spring, called on the University to
provide 1000 emergency spaces by fall; be-
gin immediately planning low-cost hous-
ing for 5000 occupants and stipulated that
the housing units' policies be set -by ten-
'ants.
The .housing office began planning the
construction of 1000 spaces of low-cost
housing in 1968 and is currently awaiting
the needed funds. Director of University
Housing John Feldkamp believes that the

'4

Apartment living can bef

By NADINE COHODAS
"All I want is a room some-
where-far away from the cold.
night air," yearned one young
lady in an old, broadway hit.
"Wouldn't it be loverly?";
thought Eliza Doolittle - an
apartment all to herself.,
Many University students ap-
parently share Miss Doolittle's
view, although just how lovely
apartment living in Ann Arbor
is can be exensively debated.
For the most part, living in
apartments has advantages over
other kinds of student' -life-
notably an eight-month stay in
one of the University's resi-
dence halls'
Several kinds of apartments
are available to would-be ten-
ants - new, modern-equipped
buildings, furnished and unfur-
nished; whole houses that have
been renovated; old subdivided
houses that haven't been reno-
vated; and small rooms with a
bed, chair, desk, closet, maybe
a window, and the bathroom.
down the hall..
Naturally each type of dwell-
ing demands a rent which varies
with the presumed quality, size
and location of the apartment
in question-though not always
in the proportion one thinks
most equitable w
Generally, however~, one can
find a place within his own
price range. A single room with-
out bathroom or kitchen facili-
ties, for example, costs $40 or
$50 a month. Efficiencies rent
for $80 to $160 a month (pre-
sumably the $160 spots are nicer
than the cheaper places); and
two, three, four and five man
places rent for anywhere from
$150-$360 -a month, or roughly
$60-$90 per person.
Better food than dormitories
and most local restaurants is
one sure advantage of apart-
ment living even if rents are
high. But the drawback, of
course, is the dishes afterwards
unless you're a p a p e r plate

user) and the money it takes to
stock the kitchen.
Campus food vprice are no-
toriously high, but if you can
find a cheap way out to a sub-
urban shopping center, the gro-
cery bill can be substantially
reduced.
Besides offering opportunities
for better food, apartments us-
ually guarantee privacy not eas-
ily obtained in the omnipresent
dormitory neighborhoods.
But apartment living need not
lead to isolation. ,In many of the
larger apartments buildings, the
walls are thin enough so your
neighbor seems like he's in your
living room with you,.anyway.
And at places with thicker
walls, you needn't be destined to
spend 'eight months of lonely
nights either. If you don't live
alone, there are always room-
mates on hand and word gets
around soon enough where you
live so people can drop by any
time. (One advantage to the
University campus is that the
physical layout is small enough
so that one is never too far
from anyone else).
Despite the better food, pri-
vacy and neighbors when you
want them, a disadvantage to
any apartment, wherever and
however it is, is actually paying
the rent and most of the time
paying utilities and the tele-
phone bill as well. Perhaps its

only, plus point is that this
responsibility guarantees mail
once a month and provides the,
vehicle for getting to know your
landlord better.
Although the University is on
the trimester s y s t e m, most
apartments are on the yearly
system and rent must be paid
for a full, 12 months even if
students are here only eight.
Consequently, most either stay
and fill out the lease or sublet
their respective places for the,
summer at a cheaper cost than
the actual rent and pay the
difference themselves. .
In addition to the rent and
utilities, Ann Arbor tenants are
required to pay the ill-famed
damage deposit-usually $50 or
$100 before arrival to cover any
ostensible w r e c k a g e to the
apartment that might occur
during their sojourn in the
landlord's abode.
Presumably if only "normal
wear and tear" is inflicted on
the place, the money will be re-
turned. But many landlords ap-
parently think students are cap-
able of being much more deli-
cate than they are and the dam-
age d e p o s it often is not re-
funded.
During the past year and a
half, some of Ann Arbor's most
successful landlords have come
,under severe a t t a c k by their
tenants for negligence in meet-

ing building codes-refusing to
make necessary repairs in older
apartments especially - and for
unnecessarily withholding dam-
age deposits.
Despite these drawbacks, how-
ever, apartment living has more
advantages than other types of
living on campus. The choice of
where to live, of course, is up to
each individual student. But
should you decide to join the
ranks of Ann Arbor tenants,
there most certainly is a land-
lord out there someplace, pen
and lease in hand, ready to sign
you up.
And if you don't like what
you've signed yourself up for,
you can always joint the rent
strike-if you can find it.

Local housing shortage
includes 'U' dorms
only way to finance this is through a tui-
tion assessment.
' But members of SGC and the Ann Arbor
Tenants Union take issue with this plan.
They maintain that, on the contrary,
the University 'could float low cost bonds
as a state institution. Feldkamp says that
floating bonds alone would not provide
sufficient funds, but Boothby maintains
that Feldkamp is exaggerating the con-
struction costs.
There are other questions too: how many
units should be constructed, who should
control them and who should be eligible
to live in them.
But these are all up in the air, and at
present, no definite construction of low-
cost units is planned-as Ann Arbor grows
shorter and shorter on housing.

S

call us e ;
and.
you a

rly
gei
lhon(

r

- ULRICII'S Book Store
Where the GIRLS are

Y Ou can.
with
right from the,
start

We try pretty hard to
make it easy for students to get
through to people.
For example, we've set up
a special system so that you
Can order your phones before
you arrive for the fall term.
You simply calf us collect.
Dial (Area Code 313)
761-9900, and tell, us where
you'll be living and when you'll
arrive. And we'll have your
phone connected on time.'
If you're in town, visit our
new business office at 324
East Huron, anytime between
8 AM to 5 PM daily. And
on Saturday, August 29th only,
we'll be open from 8 AM to
5 PM for the last minute rush.
But don't forget. Order
your phone service early and
you won't have a wait problem.

4.

II
r'
!1

, I

'I

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