Housing council needed to combat predatory housing policies

Michael Zhang, Associate Editor

Housing options for UT students have become severely limited. Just this year, students living in Riverside residential areas have been continually confronted with unfair housing policy abuses. From public transportation to campus becoming increasingly inefficient, to a recent company takeover and a frustrating lack of transparency, these changes have ultimately resulted in a compilation of unnecessary fees. 

Many students have limited choices in equitable housing, and, despite this continued mistreatment, are often forced to continually return to housing communities like Riverside. However, this issue isn’t limited to the Riverside area. As rent increases throughout the city of Austin, students have less and less affordable places to live, leaving them vulnerable to exploitative policies.

UT should form a housing council, dedicated to helping its students navigate the housing process and protecting students from predatory housing policies. 

Heather K. Way, clinical law professor for and co-director of the Entrepreneurship and Community Development Clinic, described the depth of the housing crisis issue Austin’s student population faces. 

“The housing crisis right now in Austin is that … (there are) levels we’ve never seen before and housing pressures (at) levels we haven’t ever seen before in the city,” Way said. “If rent costs go up, it places direct pressure on all housing. Students are definitely impacted by that as well — in particular those who come from lower income families.”

Clearly, a systemic issue of housing exists within the Austin area that affects local UT students.

Hugo Wu, human dimensions of organization junior and Riverside resident, described the unfair housing practices he experienced after signing his lease. 

“We’re paying the rent for a two bed, two bath apartment. They moved us to a four bed, four bath apartment. …” Wu said. “I asked the manager personally, ‘If you were put in this situation, would you accept it?’ He himself said ‘no.’ He said that to my face … and they said it’s all part of the contract. We just had to suck it up.”

Because of the scarcity of affordable housing in the Austin area and the lack of housing education by UT, students are often forced into unacceptable housing contracts with unjust policies that allow landlords to abuse their tenants’ living situation, without any repercussions. 

While UT does offer some off-campus housing resources for students, they are insufficient to tackle an issue as complicated and individualized as housing. A housing advisory council, dedicated to both helping students stuck in predatory housing contracts and assisting with avoiding such situations altogether would be more beneficial to students. 

Despite multiple requests, the University declined to comment prior to the publication of this article, providing little insight into the background behind this issue.

From UT’s tuition calculator, which calculates the estimated high cost of $1,000 a month for rent, to the many research papers on the Austin housing inequity published by University faculty, it’s clear the issue is real. In its response to the recent Riverside transportation, living conditions and housing price issues, UT has shown where it stands on helping its students — again and again choosing inaction. UT needs to provide its students with a housing council to help them avoid being trapped in an unfair housing agreement. 

Zhang is a sociology sophomore from Katy, Texas.