CANPAC pushes for height, pricing restrictions in West Campus

Allie Kolechta

The Central Austin Neighborhoods Planning Area Committee reached an agreement on a plan that could potentially leave some rooms in major West Campus apartment complexes priced for rent at 55 percent of UT’s cost of attendance.

CANPAC convened Tuesday night to further discuss taking action on height restrictions on complexes and affordability in the West Campus area and other residential areas near campus. The committee intends to discuss taking their plans to City Council for review after another subcommittee meeting and official committee meeting.

New buildings in the central West Campus areas will have the option of increasing height and providing at least 10 percent of rooms for 40 years at 75 percent of the undergraduate cost of attendance at UT or keep their current height limits and provide an extra 10 percent of rooms at 55 percent the cost of attendance, said Mike McHone, a realty developer in the West Campus Area.

“We contacted the [City of Austin] task force and have received no objections to withdrawing any height inquiries from West Campus,” he said. “They seem to think that our height restriction amendments would create the least confusion and create some opportunities for commercial affordability.”

If students double up in bedrooms, this could leave them with rent payments as low as $350 to $260, McHone said. Outer West Campus’s height restrictions will not be affected, he said.

Regardless of any amendments to the height proposal, anything that is built in the West Campus area nearest to campus will be required to pay one dollar per square foot regardless of whether it has added the additional 24 feet, said Mike Hirsch, a member of the Hancock Neighborhood Association.

“An advantage to increasing density in the central West Campus Area is that there’s a certain number of students that want to be housed not in Riverside or North Campus, but closer to campus,” Hirsch said. “If we could increase the density in central West Campus, we could decrease the demand for density in Riverside and North Campus.”

A subcommittee met after CANPAC’s meeting in late September to try and reach a compromise on the height proposal that all of CANPAC could agree on, said CANPAC co-president Nuria Zaragoza.

“The rationale that the subcommittee came up with was two-fold,” Zaragoza said. “First off, affordability, but also the belief that there should be density in the University overlay, not necessarily because of the affordability argument.”

Height increases will benefit the West Campus area by increasing density in the area close to campus, while affordability will come from initiatives such as requiring all new complexes build to pay one dollar per square foot instead of 50 cents, the amount they’re currently paying, Zaragoza said.

“After we discussed it in the subcommittee, we did not really see the correlation between affordability and height,” she said. “Affordability increases will come from changes in the affordable housing program, not from height increases.”

Printed on 5, October, 2011 as: West Campus committee pushes for rent, height limits