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October 17, 1980 - Image 14

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1980-10-17

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A bowl of chili, a slice of corn-
bread & house beverage for

Page 14-Friday, October 17, 1980-The Michigan Daily
Kuhn urges housing reform

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Citing the need for grass roots
organization, social activist and Gray
Panthers founder Maggie Kuhn last
night stressed the need for a master
plan to address current housing
problems. 1
"I believe in grass roots organizing,"
she told a group of approximately 100 at
Rackham Auditorium. "I believe in
neighborhood organizing and in neigh-
borhood government."
MOST OF KUHN'S speech dealt with
housing problems, although she men-
tioned several other causes. She called
for an end to the use of nuclear power,
leading the crowd in chanting "No
more nukes" and advocated the
development of wind and solar power.
Kuhn's speech on "Housing for a New
Age" opened a conference on housing,
sponsored by the Public Interest
Research Group in Michigan, which
will continue through Sunday and will
include workshops and presentations.
The 75-year-old Kuhn noted that there
are a number of current problems in
housing, citing increased mortgage
rates, high costs for new housing and
for utilities, lack of tenant organization,
and negligence and graft in the housing
inspection departments of city gover-
"IT'S A MESS," she said. "You and I
know it, and now we're starting to
organize to clean up the mess."

Kuhn made reference to housing
problems in her own city of
Philadelphia, where there are close to
28,000 abandoned, vandalized houses.
About 8,000 of these are owned by the
Department of Housing and Urban
Development, she said, calling HUD
"the great government landlord."
A number of strategies can be em-
ployed to initiate housing reform, the
social activist stressed.
"SOMETIMES, allies can be found
inside the enemy camp, if you follow
me," she said. She referred to Univer-
sity off-campus housing officials and to
city housing inspectors, adding that
'such "insiders" have needed infor-
mation on housing problems, but need
"outsiders to rattle the cages."
Kuhn called for a redefinition of the
concept of a family, and also for a
reevaluation of national priorities.
She advocated the creation of housing
co-operatives where young and older

persons could live together, and could
decide through democratically-
administered building committees how
to live.
A FAMILY SHOULD be defined as
two or more persons sharing goals,
purposes, and lifestyles, she said, ad-
ding that "There isn't any reason why a
collective of students living in one of
those (Ann Arbor) houses couldn't
define themselves as a family."
National priorities need to be re-
evaluated, she said, calling for a
reduced military budget, an end to
draft registration and to the MX
missile. At the same time, she stressed
the need for jobs and for public tran-
"My favorite line is that we need Am-
trak, not MX," she quipped.
ORGANIZING "healthy blocks" is
necessary and feasible, she said, ex-
plaining that such a concept involves
neighborhood organization to look for
"signs of unhealth", such as building
code violations. These communities

could also create community gardens,
and thus fulfill many of their food
needs, she added.
"If we had that kind of neighborhood
organization, who needs the utilities?
she asked. "We could say the hell with
She suggested that students could
build igloos on campus as a means of
increasing awareness of housing
problems. A "tent-in" at City Hall is
another possibility, she said.
ANSWERING several questions
following her speech, Kuhn agreed that
establishing coalitions between
younger and older persons is difficult
but possible.
Prior to Kuhn's speech, Richard
Levick, campus project coordinator for
the University and Oakland University
PIRGIM chapters, dedicated the
housing conference to the memory of
Jodi Spiers, an LSA sophomore and
PIRGIM Project Community coor-
dinator, who was killed in an auto ac-
cident Sunday night.

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Gray Panthers leader
tours local apartment

"We think our watchword should be
not 'independence' but 'interdependen-
ce,' said Gray Panthers activist
Maggie Kuhn yesterday.
Seventy-five-year-old Kuhn, in Ann
Arbor for this weekend's housing con-
ference, discussed her senior citizen

organization's housing goals as she
stood in an apartment located at 315
Packard Rd.
"We think 'intergenerational' efforts
should be made to desegregate houses
and neighborhoods," Kuhn explained,
adding that there is as much ill-will
between the old and the young as there
is between blacks and whites.



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"WE HOPE TO launch a network of
people in groups to work for a master'
housing plan for the city," Kuhn said of
the conference. She also noted that the
University's large land holdings in Ann
Arbor need monitoring. "We need a
cabaret of watchdogs and 'watchbit-
ches' to monitor their land plans," she
Members of the Public Interest
Research Group In Michigan, the
organization coordinating this
weekend's conference, went through a
brief inspection of the apartment,_
noting illegal lease provisions as well asr
physical defects in the construction.
According to Conference Coordinator
Nick Roomeliotis,, the apartment lan-
dlord was currently in violation of
several city housing codes. He sum-
marized them, saying:
. "The landlord must sign a cer-
tificate of compliance every two years
stating that he intends to rent the house
out." The current landlord signed his
last certificate in 1976. According to
Roomelioits, when housing officials
contacted him regarding his delinquen-
cy in the matter, he said, "I was:
waiting for you to get in touch with
" "The apartment must be clean,
sanitary, and fit for human occupan-
cy." According to Kelly, one of the
three apartment tenants, the
bathrooms and kitchen were too filthy
for any human to work in, the day she
was to move in, so she and her room
mates spent a week fixing it up.
" "The rooms must be at least 80
square feet and five feet high." The two
bedrooms were both 80 square feet, but
because the apartment is a converted
attic, both ceilings sloped down to the
" The fire escape was one foot
narrower than the code requires. In ad-
dition, it was made of wood, which
Roomeliotis called "a 'stupid thing to
build it out of."
The lease, which was read by a mem-
ber of the Ann Arbor Tenant's Union,
included several illegal clauses. One
provision stated that the landlord had a
right to evict the tenants and their
belongings for non-payment of rent
without court action. Another clause
made the tenants promise to be respon-
sible for outside upkeep of the
premises. The Tenant's Union
spokesperson said this was legal only if
the tenants leased the entire house, not
just one apartment in it.
Kuhn seemed appalled that the three
women paid $550 per month in rent.
"That's pretty expensive. I'd like to get
a rundown on the rents other tenants in
the building are paying," she said.

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