University struggles to house larger-than-expected freshman class, recommends off-campus alternatives

Bobby Blanchard

UT officials are not as confident as they were in June of the University’s ability to handle the large size of the incoming freshman class.

One thousand two hundred students who applied for housing contracts and have not received them were sent an email last week informing them that it was unclear whether there would be available beds. The email told students if they wanted to stay on the waitlist, then they needed to respond by Monday, July 30. Otherwise they would be automatically taken off. The email recommended students look at off-campus housing options, sending them links to a list of private dorms and online rental listings.

All six private dorms the University links to in its email — The Castilian, Dobie, The Goodall Wooten, Hardin House, Scottish Rite Dormitory and University Towers — have no availability for the fall.

Aftab Zindani, incoming UT engineering freshman, said he did not respond to the email. Zindani said had he known several months ago that the University would be unable to provide on-campus housing for him, he would have started his search sooner.

“I’m looking for apartments right now,” Zindani said. “I am a little bit upset UT wasn’t able to get me housing.”

The University is facing a larger-than-expected incoming freshman class, with estimates currently around 8,000 students compared to 7,149 last year. Including 350 supplemental housing spaces, or spaces in residence halls that are turned into makeshift dorms to meet demand and include furniture and a fridge, UT has about 7,500 beds on campus.

In June, Laurie Mackey, director of administrative services for UT Division of Housing and Food Service, told The Daily Texan that although housing usually gets more requests than can be filled each year, they are able to fill every request come August.

“Each time a student decides not to live on campus or not to attend UT we are able to give their space to another student,” Mackey said in June. “Every year we are able to fill every housing request by the end of the summer.”

But on Monday Mackey said the University is concerned about having trouble accomplishing that feat this year.

“Due to the large numbers of freshmen this year, we cannot guarantee that we can house all freshman,” Mackey said.

However, this is not the first year the University has sent an email like this before.

“We do this in order to get an accurate waiting list,” Mackey said.

Students who apply for housing by April 24 are guaranteed a housing contract, and Mackey said the University was able to meet this promise this year.

Chay Walker, a leasing and sales manager for 512 Realty, said students still had options even though the fall school year was almost here.

“It just depends what they are looking for,” Walker said. “If you’re looking for one bedroom or studios, there are still some of those. But if you are looking for houses at this point, then it is kind of a slim pick.”

Walker said 512 Realty is still leasing studios and one-bedrooms for the fall. However, it will be more expensive than in previous years.

“Everything has gone up this year, anywhere between 8 and 12 percent versus last year,” Walker said. “It really becomes a supply and demand thing. Austin as a whole is 95 percent occupied, but down here in Central Austin we are closer to 97 or 98 percent occupied.”

Walker said the studios 512 Realty was offering were being rented at between $725 and $995, while the one-bedrooms were being rented at between $950 and $1,275. Walker said these prices were consistent with other offers in Austin.

Lonestar Lofts, an apartment complex 512 Realty manages, is full for the fall. However, Walker said there were still apartments open at the Quarters, the Block and the Triangle.