West Campus leasing culture frustrates students

Jennifer Liu

One of the most notorious problems many UT students struggle with doesn’t have to do with the University directly — housing. When students who choose to live off-campus start searching for leases, the main contenders are typically West Campus, North Campus and Riverside. Out of these three, West Campus — named for its location west of the Drag — is undoubtedly the most popular. Its proximity to campus, restaurants and bus routes are just some of the reasons behind its high demand. 

This, in combination with other factors such as the general increasing student population at UT, has led to a significant increase in the number of West Campus residents. From 2000 to 2009, the West Campus population increased from 10,000 to 17,000 people per square mile. Over 4,500 more people moved in between 2010 and 2015. 

This growth in population size correlates with an increase in other issues. For one, affordability. In an attempt to address rising housing costs, the City of Austin passed the Central Austin Combined Neighborhood Plan in 2004, which requires developers to set aside a minimum of 10 percent of their units for affordable housing. 

In addition to affordability, other concerns run rampant in West Campus, such as what many students consider to be predatory leasing tactics. Just last semester, Plan II sophomore Rylan Maksoud settled a lawsuit he had filed against University House for suddenly terminating his lease due to overbooking. Skyloft, a new complex that opened this school year, came under fire for not providing detailed floor plans alerting residents of concrete pillars in some of the units. 

Still, other issues plague many West Campus residents and resident-hopefuls. One is the lack of nine-month lease terms — many properties only offer 12-month leases, forcing many students to try and sublease their rooms over the summer or sacrifice three months worth of rent on an empty room. Non-refundable application fees and deposits are another issue. In order to join a property’s wait-list, many students must fill out an application and pay upwards of $100 to submit and hold their spots. 

Many students are understandably frustrated. This week, forum contributor Marc Taylor encourages students to use resources at their disposal, such as UT’s free legal services, to help prevent more issues such as Maksoud’s and many others from arising. He urges the University to caution students who are looking to West Campus as a potential housing option.

Jace Klein, a biology junior, details his own experiences specifically with American Campus, the nation’s largest private dorm developer, owner and manager, and one of the biggest developers in West Campus. 

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