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Landlords Conspire Against Rent Control

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The Human Rights Party rent control proposal will defïniteiy appear on the April ballot, and local landlordslandladies are already rallying in opposition to the charter amendment which would lower rents and cut profits. Two letters released last week by the HRP document the fight that property owners and management companies intend to wage against rent control. The first letter, which was sent trom Neil Snook of Pittsfield Township to Craig Hall of Standard Realty Corporation, states that the proposal is "intended to bring people who own, opérate or manage income property to their knees." Dated January 5, it proposes that "we might challenge the legality of the petition before it has a chance to become part of the City Charter." The second letter goes even further into the details of the fight landlordsladies are organizing against the rent control amendmentí Sent by a group called "Citizens Opposed to Rent Control," it is addressed "Dear Property Owner." The group is apparently a front formed by landlordsladies to defeat the proposal. The letter states: "A committe has been formed to coordinate an active and aggressive campaign directed toward defeating Rent Control at the polls on April 2, 1974 and all other altemative actions legal or otherwise determined to negate this proposal or consequent ordinance. We urgently request full support in this campaign by making a voluntary contribwtion of S5.00 per rental unit that you own or have under your control.... "We look forward to hearing from you and having you join in our efforts, both financial and otherwise, as an income property owner concerned with the right to retain private ownership and maintain the free enterprise system." The two ñames listed as contacts for "Citizens Opposed to Rent Control" are both connected with real estáte firrns: James Brien of Swisher Realty and Randolph White of Wilson-White Real Estáte. With 17,000 rental units in the city, the committee could raise up toS85,ÖOO to use against rent control. This is a massive amount by local campaign stand ards. As an example, the wealthiest party in the city, the Republicans, spent between S6O-7O,OOO total for all six campaigns (five Council races and the mayoral race) last April. Under the recent campaign control ordinance passed by Council Repubiicans, corporations are not prohibited from contributing to committees opposing (or supporting) ballot issues. This wouid ailow local rental agencies to throw their fuU weight against rent control, fhus "buying" the election. The landlordsladies.wilibe able to wage an all-out media blitz to convince people to vote against rent control. And even if the ordinanee is passed by the people (a dísünct possibility), funds are likely to be forthcoming for a major couri battle to prevent the irrfplementation of the charter amendment. Local supporters of rent control are unlikely to have the same financial backing. But atternpts are being made to prevent propertied efforts to undermine the electoral process through financial power. The HRP is asking Ann Arbor tenants to withhold S5 from their next month's rent payment and to the HRP, which says that money so marked will be ttsed strictly for the campaign to bring rent control to Ann Arbor. (For an m-depth report on the rent control proposal and housing in A2, watch for the next issue.)