Texas students want more affordable housing in Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — With apartment rent prices soaring across Austin, college students fear being squeezed out.

Now, a student-led city commission is gearing up to make suggestions to city leaders.

Friday, the College Students Commission — made up of 15 students from the local college — will consider send recommendations to the Austin City Council.

Edwin Bautista, a student at the University of Texas at Austin, wrote the document that will be put to the vote. The grad student told KXAN that he would love to live near campus, but he just can’t afford it.

“I’ve been commuting for three years,” Bautista said. “I will say last year was the worst.”

“We’re trying to help the city understand these issues from the students’ perspective,” he added.

The commission’s recommendations include:

  • Direct the City Manager and the Housing and Planning Department to collaborate with non-profit housing organizations, including student housing cooperatives (co-ops) to develop more affordable housing
  • Lead the City Manager and the Housing and Planning Department to “increase transparency and accessibility” of the University District Housing Trust Fund
  • Direct the City Manager to work with the Director of the Neighborhood Office of Housing and Community Development to reevaluate part of the University Neighborhood Overlay (UNO)

UNO is a bonus structure designed to increase housing density in UT’s West Campus neighborhood and encourage affordable housing development.

Layering allows developers to build more units than a site’s basic zoning allows if a number of those units qualify as SMART housing, which means safe, mixed-income, accessible, affordable reasonable and transit-oriented.

Despite all the growth and newly available apartments within West Campus, many students remain overpriced.

KXAN spoke with Awais Azhar, board member of HousingWorks, a local nonprofit that works to address affordability issues.

Azhar is also a UT graduate student who is fortunate, he says, to live in a university-owned apartment complex near West Sixth Street.

“In the last year alone, we’ve seen rents go up all over Austin, and you can imagine what that’s doing for students,” Azhar said. “It’s really hard for them.”

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