Housing and ASM: What’s what

Keeping track of what all’s going on with Housing/Tenant Stuff in ASM in the 2009-2010 school year can be a bit confusing, so I thought I’d try and lay it all out there.

The Student Tenant Union was/is a GSSF-funded group for the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 school years. They recieved “eligibilty” in the fall of 2007, which meant they could recieve seg fees starting July 1, 2008. Unfortunately for them, no one was actually around in the fall of 2008 to start the group. (See the comment by Alex on that post.) Even more of a problem for the STU, no one was around in the fall of 2008 to submit a budget a proper for the 2009-2010 school year, and so the SSFC was forced to fund them at the minimal level, which is $4000. Later in the fall of 2008, Kyle Szarzynski took over the STU and it actually came to life a bit during the spring of 2009. Unfortunately for the STU, on July 1 2009 the $4000 budget took over. I don’t believe anyone is actively claiming to represent the STU, and its $4000 budget will simply go back into the Seg fee pot on June 30th, 2010.

The Student Tenant Resource Center was a “new” group, founded by Szarzynski, that applied for eligibility in the fall of 2009. They were denied, on the grounds that they were in fact the Student Tenant Union, and as the Student Tenant Union had incurred a number of violations, the STRC was responsible for the violations. Kyle disagrees and then some.  However, a few days later, they were denied eligibility again.  (Read the comments, not the story). I thought that they had appealed again, but apparently not, or at least I can’t find it online, and even then I’m pretty sure that everything has been resolved, and the STRC is not getting any GSSF money in the 2010-2011 school year. (They can, of course, get money from the 2009-2010 budget for travel, events, and operations, from the ASM Finance Committee)

The Madison Property Rating Website, ie the Tenant Rating Website, ie the Landlord Rating website, is an independent project separate from the STU/STRC. Originally proposed by Eli Judge, (see 2:00 into the video) ASM ultimately took the plunge and allocated funding for its creation in the 2008-2009 school year (I think about $8000) and put in about $2300 to run it in the 2009-2010 (July 1 to June 30th, 2010) school year. For the 2010-2011 budget that ASM is currently discussing, the operational money remains about $2300. Obviously, the isn’t up and running yet, but hopefully the final understandings can be reached in the University soon and ASM can actually spend the money, and the site could be up and running late this spring. Ideally, there’d be a good advertising push by the MPR Oversight Board, and people would start actually rating Landlords, so the website is useful in the Fall of 2010, when potential renters will start to actually need it.

The MPR website is somewhat of a duplication of a program by the STU, (see the comments) but the STU never actually spent the money allocated to create such a website, much less delivered an operating website, so concerns about duplications were resolved. I still have deep concerns that ASM hasn’t put enough money into the MPR operations budget to effectively run it, but until ASM gets it up and going we’re not going to know what it takes.

After watching the GSSF process fail to deliver Tenant Services year after year (after year) I thought there must be a better way to do this, so I proposed a line item in the 2010-2011 ASM Budget to just go out and buy Tenant and Housing support services. It wouldn’t start until July 1 2010 at the earliest, and more likely several months later. We’d create a list of services we want, and solicit bids through the state purchasing process, just like ASM does with the Rape Crisis Center. Exactly what services would be provided is a bit hard to say – we don’t know what they cost until we ask for bids, but we can’t know what we can afford until we know what they cost. The state can easily handle this sort of bidding process with a “Best Value” bidding process – ASM provide a menu of choices in its “Request for Proposals”, potential providers will tell us what they cost, and then ASM will rank bids based on the “Value” of items and their costs. Until ASM has a ballpark of what it will fund this at, it’s pointless to try and create a Request for Proposals, because if our budget is $50,000 we’re going to create a very different proposal than if we get a $10,000 budget.

I don’t know who would be the provider – obviously, I expect the Tenant Resource Center to bid, but I think Porchlight, the Salvation Army, and the YWCA are other area non-profits that would be interested as well, and I’m sure there are others.

The SSFC cut this line item when they edited the ASM budget. This line item has nothing to do with the Student Tenant Union, or the Student Tenant Resource Center. It might have something to do with the MPR website: until we actually start running the MPR website we’re not going to know exactly what the best way to run the website will be, and I could see the MPR website operations being transferred to our Tenant Services Provider. (Note that ASM would still pay for the initial construction – the $8000). More likely the MPR website will be run the way its currently set up to be: with a Oversight board, with some ASM Student Council members and the rest UW Madison students who may or maynot be otherwise involved with ASM.

The Tenant Support Services money could also be used to help fund some of Bryon Eagon’s ideas about Tenant/Landlord mediation

Even if the money for the Tenant Support Services doesn’t happen, there’s one idea that I want to have happen anyway, which is the Housing Fair. (I wrote about this for the Herald, too, because I hated my diversity piece and needed a last-minute substitution) It seems that the Legislative Affairs Committee is interested in taking this on as a project with one of their interns, which is fine by me. The fair is another example of something that we could outsource to Tenant Support Services Provider, but we can do it ourselves, too.

Finally, Legislative Affairs is going to get involved in Maniaci’s Lease Renewal Timeline ordinance. (See also the minutes of the Jan 25th, 2010 meeting). This won’t take any money, just lobbying by ASM.

I think that’s everything that’s going on.

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6 comments so far

  1. Carl F on

    Kyle Szarzynski is still representing the STU and collecting a paycheck every two weeks from seg fees, so the money is being spent, and will not go back into the seg fee pot. Otherwise, this post was accurate and sums up the last few years of ASM’s experience with tenant issues pretty well. Thanks Erik!

  2. SJR on

    Good post and nice recap.

  3. Kyle Szarzynski on

    Erik,

    Good post. Because STU was minimally funded last year (before I was involved), we only have money for one position, which severely limits our ability to do outreach on campus. Last year, in which we had a larger budget, we were able to have a much more expansive operation. This year, counseling has been almost out exclusive focus thus far due to lack of funds, and even this has been much more limited than last year because most of this responsibility has fallen on me. (Training counselors takes a long time and is especially difficult to do when people can only be taken on as volunteers. Volunteering as a counselor is qualitatively different than volunteering for other groups; understanding tenant law and talking to people about it isn’t quite the same as putting up posters.) Nonetheless, I have been able to get a small group together trained with adequate counseling skills to have regular counseling hours this semester. Email us at stuuwmadison@gmail.com if counseling is needed. For what it’s worth, we’ll be around until the end of the fiscal year (June 2010).

    Also, I can’t tell you what a loss to campus it is to not have a counseling operation. The need is just so great. Every student has had problems with their landlord at some point, and yet few have any real understanding of their rights, which is why LANDLORDS ARE ABLE TO CONSCIOUSLY EXPLOIT STUDENTS. As you note, I have my feelings about how the eligibility process went down in the fall, and I see no point in rehashing that since nothing can be changed. What’s done is done.

    Without an STU next year, it would be nice if ASM could commit some resources to something, since tenant counseling has to be one of the least controversial services that any GSSF currently provides. The Tenant Resource Center is simply too far away and not student-focused enough to be adequate. I’ll probably end up trying to keep STU alive next year through some volunteers, but like I said that’s not going to be sustainable, probably not even in the short-term.

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