A City of East Lansing ordinance that would have significantly altered the annual housing rental timeline here has been “deemed rescinded,” the City confirmed on Monday, because the governments of Lansing and Meridian Township didn’t pass similar laws by the East Lansing Council-imposed deadline of Aug. 10.
Ordinance 1500 was passed via a 3-2 vote of East Lansing’s City Council in June. It would have effectively created a 150-day embargo on landlords showing and leasing units to other prospective tenants for the next rental cycle, with the embargo starting at the beginning of a new lease. The idea was to push later into the academic year the time when students and others would sign leases for the following year.
But all of that is no more because of an add-on to the ordinance from the person who originally proposed it — then-Mayor Aaron Stephens — which imposed an Aug. 10 deadline for the governments of Lansing and Meridian Township to pass “substantially similar” requirements. None of the meeting agendas from either the Meridian Township Board of Trustees or the Lansing City Council show anything akin to the law East Lansing passed being considered by those bodies.
Stephens had called the law “a vote for students,” but he then added what turned out to be, in essence, a poison pill on the ordinance he proposed, saying he wanted to also protect East Lansing landlords from a potential disadvantage.
Stephens was also unlikely to get now-Mayor Jessy Gregg’s deciding vote without the requirement that Meridian and Lansing match the law. Gregg, a business-owner herself, has indicated a strong sensitivity to the concerns of other business owners, including landlords.
Stephens, Gregg, and Council member Dana Watson voted in favor of the law, with Council members Lisa Babcock and Ron Bacon voting against.
It was noted multiple times in discussion by City Council that sizable portions of Michigan State University students do or could reside in Lansing and Meridian Township (and elsewhere). Babcock pointed out during early discussions in April that if East Lansing were the only of those three municipalities with this rule, students might flock to the apartments and houses on the eastern, western, and northern borders of the city, hurting local landlords and the City’s tax base.
During that April meeting, landlords who opposed the change and MSU students who welcomed the rental timeline buffer spoke at public comment to share why they were for, or against, this measure.
It was not clear after that meeting if City Council would pass Ordinance 1500, despite the seeming entrenchment of landlords and students.
Although a majority of City Council did ultimately vote in favor of Ordinance 1500, it is now dead as a piece of legislation, without ever having taken effect. There is no sign that City Council plans to take up similar legislation anytime soon.