As Austin grows, off-campus rent prices rise

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Photo Credit: Iliana Storch | Daily Texan Staff

Students who live off-campus often move there in search of prices more affordable than dorm room rates — which, at the cheapest, are $1,084 a month for a shared bedroom and community bathroom. But off-campus rental rates are increasing as well.

Last year, Austin was ranked the number one fastest growing city by Forbes in 2014 for the fourth year in a row, with an annual growth rate of 2.5 percent. With the city’s increasing population, there is a shortage of rental units, causing prices to rise.

For students living off campus, rental rates are often out of their price range. In 2008, only 4 percent of rental units were deemed affordable for those making less than $20,000, according to the Neighborhood Housing and Community Development Department. 

While most college students do fall under the category of making less than $20,000 a year, the US Census Bureau takes their high earning potential into account when adjusting poverty rates of cities with large student populations. Erica Leak, the city’s housing planning and policy manager, said this does not change the shortage of affordable housing units is increasing. 

“The number of renters in Austin earning more than $75,000 annually increased by 74 percent since 2007,” Leak said. “The number of renters earning less than $25,000 annually has only grown by 1 percent over the same time period.”

Zumper.com, a startup company based in San Francisco, recently named Austin the 21st most expensive place in the country to rent, and the prices are continuing to increase. Zumper measures rental rates in every city based on median one-bedroom prices, according Devin O’Brien, the company’s head of strategic marketing.

According to Zumper, the median one-bedroom price in West Campus is $985, $1,010 in North Campus, $990 in the University neighborhood area and $1,016 in Riverside. These numbers are not representative of prices for apartments that offer multi-bedroom options.

“Median is a good way [to measure] that if there are a bunch of high-rises,” O’Brien said. “Taking the average would skew the numbers … the majority of your rental data out there is centered around one or two bedroom.”

History senior Nicholas Samendinger found his house on W. Sixth Street in 2012. He and his two roommates pay $2,100 total a month for three bedrooms and two bathrooms. In his area, the median rate for a one-bedroom rental is $1,544, according to Zumper. 

Eighty-two percent of UT students live off campus, according to U.S. News and World Report. It’s easy for students to forget about areas other than North and West Campus, Samendinger said.

“Pricing in [West Campus] is absolutely insane,” Samendinger said. “It’s way more expensive to live near campus than it should be for students. I’ve got friends living in West Campus paying $900 per bedroom.”

Mayor Steve Adler said housing affordability is one of his chief concerns. 

“It’s an issue not only for tenants, but people who want to buy homes, renting, and hope some day to buy homes,” Adler said. “It’s an issue for people who are trying to rent places. This is an expensive city to live in, and we’re pricing people out.”