Student housing was a recurring theme at this week’s City Council meeting, as Council members made several decisions based on the Student Housing Task Force’s findings from their yearlong inquiry.
“Last November of ‘18, not long after that, we established the Student Housing Task Force that has been evaluating, discussing and debating the subject of student housing in our community,” said Mayor Ron Anders.
During that time, City staff worked on a comprehensive inventory to discover how many housing units and, more specifically, beds, were being utilized in the City, Anders said.
“What we learned through this is that we have a large number of beds ... We believe that number can be anywhere around 37,000 beds for students,” Anders said. “There are some in this room who would argue that that number is even greater than that, but we believe that it is at least that.”
During the Committee of the Whole, Anders said that with the results of the study and the news of Auburn University’s plans to cap enrollment at about 25,000 undergraduate students and 5,000 graduate students, it is time for the City to make some determinations.
“All in all, it is my opinion that we are over-subscribed for student-housing beds in our community,” Anders said. “And it’s time for the Council, after a year of study, debate, discussion, that we determine whether this is something that we should make a change in.”
Anders proposed that the Council ask City Manager Jim Buston and other City staff to write up a new ordinance that would put a temporary halt to the building and development of all student-housing projects to give the City time to determine how to move forward.
Sign up for our newsletter
Get The Plainsman straight to your inbox.
“There is an overabundance of student beds in our market, or soon will be,” Buston said. “So for a short period of time, a 90-day window, we would ask that no additional student beds be built to give us and the Council time to come up with potential remedies.”
The City is still building at a rate that assumed the University would continue to grow at a rate of 500 students per year. This ordinance would allow the City to re-evaluate how student housing should be handled with the new enrollment cap in mind, Buston said.
City staff has been discussing many of the issues that the mayor noted for some time now, and they have already come up with some ideas about new policies the City could create to fit this growth, Buston said.
Ultimately, the Council agreed to submit the request to City services to write up the new ordinance, though some Council members expressed concerns.
Specifics of the ordinance have not yet been determined. However, City staff indicated developments already underway, like Uncommon Auburn and 320 West Mag, will likely be grandfathered in, so the development halt would not apply.
Council member Tommy Dawson asked that the City keep legal professionals involved to ensure that everything would be written up following correct legal procedures.
Council member Brett Smith said he wanted to make sure that the final document would be clear to ensure the stability of the Auburn community and its economy.
During the Council’s regular meeting, the Council also voted on the conditional use approval of a private dormitory on Armstrong Street in the Urban Neighborhood South zoning district.
Planning Director Forrest Cotten said the property residentially allows for “just about anything but a private dorm” to be constructed in that zone.
This resolution was tabled at the Council’s Nov. 5, meeting to give City staff and developers more time to talk to residents and try to find a plan everyone liked.
The Council denied the conditional use request. The developer of this property is allowed to resubmit a request after a waiting period to build another private dormitory.
“There were some discussions on what it would take to be deemed townhouses,” Cotten said. “If they turned around tomorrow with the townhouse plan that meets the requirements for a townhouse, it’s permitted by right.”
Do you like this story? The Plainsman doesn't accept money from tuition or student fees, and we don't charge a subscription fee. But you can donate to support The Plainsman.Support The Plainsman