Austin neighborhood already packed with high rises to get even taller

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — West Campus, a neighborhood adjacent to the University of Texas at Austin, is going to get a lot taller.

Austin City Council voted last week to increase building height limits by making amendments to University Neighborhood Overlay, or UNO. West Campus, according to KXAN’s news partner, Austin Business Journal, is already the densest neighborhood in Austin.

Changes being made

Under UNO, West Campus is divided into four sections.

The building height restrictions used to be:

  • Outer West Campus: 40′ to 120′
  • Inner West Campus: 175′ to 220′
  • Guadalupe: 65′
  • Dobie: 65′

The changes approved by the council will allow an additional 125′ of building height in Inner West Campus and 25′ in Outer West Campus and Guadalupe, as long as they make a certain number of units income-restricted.

Those rules include:

  • 10% of units/bedrooms set aside for people earning 60% of Austin’s Median Family Income (MFI) for 40 years
  • 10% of units/bedrooms set aside for people earning 50% of Austin’s MFI for 40 years
  • An additional 10% set aside for people earning 50% of Austin’s MFI OR pay a one-time fee to the housing trust fund

“Our only ask is the council to really listen to the residents”

Many UT students live in West Campus, but they told KXAN actually finding a place to live is more difficult than you’d think.

Rylan Maksoud said two years ago he signed a lease for his sophomore year one month into his freshman year.

“Even then it was too late! Three months after I signed my lease, I got a call saying my contract was ripped up. It was gone. There was no more space because the demand is too high,” he explained.

Vito Raymond with 512 Living and West Campus Living said UT students have to start pre-leasing as early as October.

Usually by January or February, Raymond said apartment units in West Campus are 100% spoken for. “One of the buildings in West Campus that’s under construction right now is Moontower. They have over 85% already pre-leased for next year,” he said.

Maksoud said the lack of supply negatively affects students who are forced to live far from campus. “Their grades suffer because they have to spend lots of time commuting.”

The UT junior spoke at Thursday’s city council meeting and asked the elected officials to support the Planning Commission’s suggestion of stretching the boundaries of Inner West Campus.

“We need Inner West Campus to be all of UNO. Take up all of West Campus,” Maksoud said. “There should be no place in West Campus where if someone wants to build more housing, and they’re told no. That’s the current situation. It just doesn’t make sense. We have such a high demand, such high pressure with no supply.”

The council members did not go for expanding Inner West Campus.

Maksoud hopes that will change in the near future. He said, “Our only ask is the council really listen to the residents.”

Growth in West Campus

Alex Ray with Austin Residence told KXAN he estimates 1,127 new apartments units have opened in West Campus in the last three years.

He said in recent years, “The number of inquiries I’ve received from students looking to live in one of the more distant UT Shuttle route neighborhoods [e.g. Riverside and Far West] has been steadily declining.”

According to Ray, more and more students are wanting to live within walking distance of campus.

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