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October 10, 1986 - Image 16

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1986-10-10
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No one is planning to build dorms or apartments here in the near future.
And now we have to compete for space with the Yuppies.

For anyone who's beenthrough the insanity of
searching for off-campus shelter lately, stories about Ann
Arbor's housing market of just four years ago seem like a
bedtime fairytale.
It was just a brief glimpse of a renter's utopia: In 1982
and 1983, about 13 percent of rooms near Central Campus
were unoccupied-an unheard of jump from the ususal
vacancy rate of about three percent.
Landlords were desperate for student tenants. Some
offered color television sets, others offered microwaves;
many froze rent or kept increases to a minimum. Tenants
were in a position to force landlords to make repairs before
signing a lease. Jo Rumsey, then the University's Assistant
Director of Off-campus Housing, advised students: "Take
your time this year. There's no need to grab the first thing
that looks half-way decent."
But observers agree the high vacancy rate was merely an
aberration caused by the country's recession. Students faced
with a tight budget "doubled up," sacrificing a room of their
own. As the economy improved, says Rumsey, now a
program associate for the University's housing office,
"students went back to what they want and what they're
used to-having their own rooms."
Now, Rumsey says, "a healthy competitive market does
not exist."
For students, the results are fewer choices, less
bargaining with landlords and rising rents.
According to the Housing and Urban Development
Agency, a vacancy rate of between five to six percent is
needed to ensure competition. Yet in the current housing
crunch, the vacancy rate has steadily remained near two or
three percent, even dipping to 0.79 percent last fall,
according to a University housing office survey. This year,
the vacancy rate is about 2.6 percent.
This shortage, say tenant advocates, removes leverage
renters have against unresponsive landlords.
Whereas prospective tenants had been able to ensure that
repairs be made before signing a lease, landlords can now
say, "like it or lump it," says Jeff Ditz, head of the Ann
Arbor Tenant's Union.
Ideally, Ditz says, tenants should negotiate with a
landlord, get agreements on repairs made in writing, and set
penalties if the landlord doesn't comply. But with the
probablity that a landlord can find another, less assertive
tenant, Ditz advises that "if the location is right and the
price is right, take it and deal with it later."
"There's no room to negotiate," Ditz added. "The
Murakami is The Daily's senior reporter.

By Kery Murakami
...And rents are ge tng hi;her
Average monthly rent for atwo bedroom,
off fcamp~s apirt
$531 $546 $565 __
1 981 192 983 1 984 1 985 1 986
Source: Univ. of Mich. Housing Division
Daily Charts by BILL MARSH

market's so tight, landlords can commit 'larceny' with the
appearance of legitimacy."
One common example, he says, is the waiving of
cleaning fees. Landlords often set the beginning of a lease
sometime during the week before classes start, an
inconvenient time for most students to move in. Through
negotiations, the tenant can agree to waive the right to a
clean apartment in return for being able to move in a week
earlier. The landlord thus saves the expense of cleaning the
apartment, which is required by city law.
According to Ditz, in a competitive housing market, the
tenant could negotiate the beginning of the lease without
waiving the right of a cleaning.
An LSA senior, who asked not to be identified, was an
extreme case. After waiving the cleaning of his apartment
this fall, he moved in and discovered the oven "covered with
about an inch of hardened grease. I took a razor and scraped
it, and it came off in long, hard strips." The student's
previous lease had ended a week before his new one began,
forcing him to move in early.
"Only a landlord thinks that a year is 51 weeks, but since
they all only offer 51 week leases, most students have little
choice but to waive the cleaning fee," says Gary
Rothberger, a lawyer with Student Legal Services.
For Rumsey, the problem lies more with tenants getting
the place of their choice, rathermthan problems with
"We've never had problems with landlords being
unresponsive,", he said. "The low vacancy rate is a problem
because where you live really has an effect on every other
part of your life. Our concern atethis office is making sure
students can find aliving enviornment that lets people
make the most of their educational experience. If you're
stuck in a place you don't want to live in, or if the
neighbors are making a lot of noise, you're not going to be
Given the stiff competition for housing, Rumsey warns
against coming across as a "troublemaker." Some local
landlords, she says, are reluctant-to rent to "those who seem
to be overly assertive," in the aftermath of the rent strikes
of the early 1970s. While she advocates clearing up
problems before signing the lease, she adds: "Sometimes
how you say things means more than what you say."
The fluctuation in vacancy rates also affects rent. "We
determine rent according to what the market will bear, and
for a couple of years we kept rent at the same level or raised
them by two or three percent at the most," said Penny
Garthweight, a local property manager.
From 1979 to 1981, rent increses for two bedroom
apartments near campus ranged from 7.7 percent to 10.9

percent. But after the v
the fall of 1981, rent ros
another year of above 1
of 1983 rose only by 2.
bedroom apartments n
than last fall, according
Many property mana
cleaning fee and rent inc
The problem, they sa
propery owners, such a
costs have risen faster
Clark, a local landlord.
Property owners s
indicates an unhealthy
recession could put the
1980s. This possibili
Assistant Planning Dire
the students, whocould
According to Bohl, al
expect to make profits
make money through e
using its depreciation as
But those hoping to w
as well as their tenants,
code, which reduces or e
Because rent is a seci
many had been able to 1
tax shelters, says Univ
Research and Developn
will have to rely increas
as much as 12 to 15 perc
The logical solution
increase the number of
while some new housi
are on the outskirts o
homes, intended to hous
for research companies
student's pricerange.
"Ann Arbor's a very
when companies look if
places where their emp
this growing, morecaft
decrease in government
development, Bohl s
concentrating less on stu
a "The cityis growing t
income housing," says1
Legal Services.
In addition, the influ
to live in the downto
competition for students
downtown. Some of the
live near where they wf
city's planning director.
A nother fact
vacant land around cam
such as Pittsfield Towns
out that developers needi
at the city's edge, but th
structures before they ca
Even then, developer
order to significantly aff
no doubtraise objection
changes to Ann Arbor's
City ofiia.s like c
headed a city low incom
want to rely on private
housing shortage. They
dormitory space.
Several years ago, int
proposed to build a new{
federal loan program. Bu
number of college age s
boom, the University's I
Historically, major d



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