AUSTIN (KXAN) – Council Member Zohaib “Zo” Qadri is bringing a resolution to the Sept. 14 council meeting to start looking for ways to close a “loophole” that allows developers to build apartment buildings without windows in the bedrooms. 

Developers can do this across the city, but the issue is more prevalent in some student housing highrises in West Campus near the University of Texas at Austin. 

“There’s currently a loophole in our building code that allows developments across Austin to be built that don’t have windows,” Qadri said. “Our hope with this resolution is that we can kick off the process to close this loophole,” he continued. 

Austin architect and UT Austin professor Juan Miró has advocated for changing the building code as it relates to windows for years. He said he learned about the windowless bedroom issue when he asked his students to draw pictures of their windows at home for an assignment.  

“I started to have students say, ‘I don’t have a window.’ I’d say, ‘What do you mean? That must be some shady landlord renting you a closet. Or what?’ ‘No, no, I live in one of the brand-new buildings here.’ ‘That cannot be possible, it’s illegal,’” he recalled telling his students.

But he found out it was legal. Since then, he’s published several pieces on the topic, including an op-ed in the Statesman, to try to appeal to public officials. While researching for his articles, he discovered that some buildings have many windowless bedrooms. 

“Some buildings have 44% of their students living in windowless rooms. It’s not like a few here and there,” he said. 

Miró said that architects should consider the physical, mental and emotional effects buildings have on occupants and the surrounding community when creating projects. 

“We’re not thinking about the health of these students. What do you do when you get depressed? You go to your room. What happens when you go to a room that has no windows? You get more depressed,” he said.

Further, he said there is an equity component to this. 

“Who’s going to end up in the windowless rooms? The people will less means,” Miró said. “The students who can pay, they’re [going] to go to the top floor. They’re going to get a very nice corner window,” he added. 

Miró spoke to previous Austin City Council members about making these code changes without success. He said he is happy this council is taking action now but wished it would have happened sooner. 

“Damage has already been done, but it’s good to know that hopefully [it] will not be happening [anymore],” he said.