Plan in Austin to limit roommates moves forward

stealth dorms

Members of some Austin neighborhoods are trying to combat developments that typically house multiple students — nicknamed “stealth dorms”.

A proposed rule in front of the city council would cap the number of unrelated people who can live under one roof at four. Right now, six people can legally live in one home.

Michael Wong has issues with what he calls “stealth dorms” in his Northfield neighborhood. The neighborhood association has identified more than 80 such structures.

“What we’re seeing in the last year or so is an extreme acceleration of these types of properties,” Wong said. “There are some months when we actually lose six houses in a month.”

Those supporting the change say they take issue with the type of development. Wong believes it drives some families away, in addition to parking and trash problems.

Several students who are living with more than four people under one roof say they don’t believe that the new proposed rules will change much. They say living together also helps them save money.

“Maybe [it’s] just a few bad apples are kind of spoiling it for everybody,” said real estate broker Alan Ware.

Ware says enforcing existing rules would be a good start. If anything passes, he wants it to only apply to new properties. Ware also says the proposal could cause unintended problems.

“When they move into a property they may not be able to afford something in the area that they want just by two or three friends. Sometimes you do need a bigger group,” Ware said.

The Austin city council will consider Thursday sending the issue to a public hearing. If it moves on — that hearing will take place on February 13.

The current proposal would apply to everyone – and not just students.

In May, The Heritage Neighborhood Association in Central Austin was trying to push a petition to curtail the number of rentals for college housing in that neighborhood near Lee Elementary School. That online petition is still active.

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