People of UT Ep 01: Isabel Webb Carey

In this new series, we highlight some of the unsung heroes and unrecognized legends around UT’s campus. In this first episode, audio producer Claire Schulter chats with UT Housing Transparency creator Isabel Webb Carey about her inspiration for creating the page.

Find the UT Housing Transparency page here:

This episode was hosted, reported and edited by Claire Schulter. Supervised by senior producer Maria Probert Hermosillo. Music by BlueDot Sessions. The full transcript can be found below:


*Intro with background music*

Maria Probert Hermosillo: Welcome to People of UT, the show that introduces you to members of the UT community that have made a positive impact (big or small) on other community members. 

*Background music*

Claire Schulter: I’ll be your host, Claire Schulter, and for this episode, we will be focusing on Isabel Webb Carey. Isabel runs the UT Housing Transparency account, which is dedicated to helping students navigate the real estate market in Austin. We got the chance to talk with her while she studies abroad in Mexico City.

Isabel Webb Carey: I think every year, there’s this cyclical process of students at UT finding themselves needing to find a place to live for the following year, which if you think about it is in kind of, a kind of late September, October, and that is, you know, nearly a year in advance.

Claire: Isabel reflected on her own experience trying to find housing, especially as an international student from the UK, and recognized a shortcoming in our community. 

Isabel: And so I kind of realized that this was, there just wasn’t enough information about — especially I have a lot of friends who are freshmen and who were really intimidated about the prospect of having to find housing and having to sign the lease. I mean, these are 18-year-olds, the vast majority has never done something like that. And especially when their parents may be out of state or like mine actually across the world, it can be really, really daunting and just not knowing what to look for, not knowing who to talk to. And just feeling really alone in the process.

Claire: The account serves as an accessible way for students to access information about different apartment buildings in West Campus.

Isabel:  So it’s just going to those websites collecting all the information, which is on the website of like, how much, what properties are listed, how much they kind of going for, so you can have like an easier direct comparison, again. And they change and I don’t update them, I don’t have the time to update, but you will get a rough estimate, the price of what buildings will, relative price to different buildings are. So that’s kind of just collecting your prices. And then from there, I will look at Google reviews, I will look at Yelp, I will look at numerous other kinds of platforms which have been used to, where students have recently comments and reviews of these buildings and sharing their own experiences.

Claire: Students are asked to share their own experiences in the comments, which helps with engagement as well as ensuring accurate information about the living conditions. 

Isabel: And I would just really encourage anyone in the UT community. If you see a post where you’ve lived or you’ve had a friend who lived there, that’s great, tag them, tell me your experience. Tell me the good, the bad, the ugly, everything. Again, finding housing should not be a difficult prospect for any of us.

Claire: But for Isabel, this project is about more than just what buildings have working elevators and hot water. Her time working on this project has illuminated a pattern of exploitation in West Campus housing, and she hopes that her account is able to be a rallying point for individuals to recognize the issues that exist in Austin. 

Isabel: It’s not about the individuals, it is just about the industry. At the end of the day, we are students. I keep coming back to this point, we are students, and we are vulnerable. We don’t know what we’re doing most of the time. Some people do have the privilege of having parents who live nearby and who can help them with this process. And that is great. But at the end of the day, this is the first time through this process. And I think there’s just like a gap for, honestly, just exploitation because again, you have these tricks of freshmen wandering into leasing offices feeling — and then leaving feeling like if they don’t sign immediately in September, which is, what, a full like, nine months but more than that, or 10 months, 11 months,, almost a year before they’re going to have to even move into these buildings, being made to feel a bit like if they don’t sign a lease within the next two days, they’re not gonna have a place to live next year, which is completely absurd.

Claire: This account, and its support have shown that Austin has a serious housing problem and it serves as an attempt to help solve that issue.

Isabel: I mean, even if we’re new here, we hear stories about how it’s like, the forces of gentrification are well underway in Austin, how buildings are becoming more expensive and even non-livable. And then, even when they are livable, you’ll hear stories from friends who’ve had bad experiences with property managers or just really bad conditions where they live. And these are not normal problems. I think, again, we normalize these. We are students at the end of the day, we … most universities do provide accommodation, and having to navigate and just deal with the terrifying landscape that is the Austin real estate market right now … it’s an awful prospect. And I just would love to save people time and stress. And as long as I keep hearing feedback that I’m doing that, then I will keep going on. And I would love the page to grow, by the way. So this isn’t the end goal. So it’s not just proposing properties. It’s not just posting infographics, it’s moving into, okay, how can the community come together and provide information that is trustworthy? And, honestly, my long term goal with this project is to make students realize they deserve better. And in doing so, put pressure on leasing companies and property managers to treat us better.

Claire: Isabel doesn’t do this alone, Camila Ramirez, a junior advertising major, helps with the project. Camila does graphic design and content creation, but since Isabel started studying abroad, has taken on a bigger role. 

Isabel: I’m really grateful to my dear friend, Camila, who’s been helping me because content and making things accessible and readable and look great, I guess, is not my forte, but she’s doing an incredible job with that.

Claire: Isabel hopes her project can leave a positive impact on her community that will ease the anxiety that often accompanies apartment hunting, and true to that message, this was her biggest piece of advice for students:

Isabel: It’s all gonna be okay. If you don’t have a place to live by Thanksgiving, it’s fine. If you don’t have a place to live by Christmas, that’s also fine. If you don’t have a place to live by summer, start figuring out pretty quickly, but you’re still going to have a place to live. I really do promise there’s enough space.


This has been a production of the Daily Texan Audio Department. Reported and edited by me, Claire Schulter, and supervised by Senior Audio Producer Maria Probert. 

Special thanks to Isabel Webb Carey and Camila Ramierez for participating in this story.