East Riverside

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Mariela Vallejo, Biology sophomore, East Riverside - Ballpark Apartments

Photo Credit: Pu Ying Huang | Daily Texan Staff

Editor’s Note: This is the third in a three-part series of stories examining the demographics of two neighborhoods where students live — West Campus and East Riverside. Click for part one and part two.

Property crimes are common in West Campus and East Riverside, but the high concentration of students in West Campus helps insulate them from the higher rates of violent and property crime that East Riverside faces.

According to data from Austin Police Department crime analysts and the APD Crime Viewer database, the East Riverside community sees more incidents of most types of crime than the West Campus area, especially violent crime.

“I always hear the ringing of the police car in Riverside,” mechanical engineering junior Yu Huang said. “Sometimes it is pretty scary.”

Most students who live in East Riverside live in an area of about .84 square miles. From Aug. 1, 2011 to Aug. 1, 2012, residents in that area reported 87 violent crimes, according to the APD Crime Viewer. Violent crimes include murder, aggravated assault, rape and robbery.

In comparison, the .79-square-mile area in West Campus where most students live experienced only 26 crimes classified as violent during the same time frame, according to the APD Crime Viewer.

The higher instance of violent crime in East Riverside doesn’t necessarily have a huge impact on students, APD crime analyst Melissa Vanladingham said.

“Property crimes tend to be the most common criminal activity for students in this area because of leaving cars unlocked, leaving valuables out in the open even if the car is locked or even leaving their apartment doors unlocked so that anyone can come in and take something,” Vanladingham said.

East Riverside Challenges

A locked door did not deter the burglars who forced their way into the apartment of biology sophomore Mariela Vallejo at 1 a.m. Aug. 31.

“I realized somebody was trying to break in,” Vallejo, who lives at The Ballpark, said. “So I called 911. Not long after, [the burglars] broke the door open. Then I saw they were trying to get to my door, and because I didn’t want to be messed with I yelled out, ‘I called 911!’ and whoever it was ran out. I stayed in my room until the cops came, and when they did get here they found [the burglars] had stolen my roommate’s laptop.”

Police have not found the burglars. Vallejo, who has lived in the neighborhood for two years, said she still feels safe there.

“This kind of stuff really doesn’t happen much over here,” Vallejo said.

Data shows nonviolent crimes are also more common in East Riverside than in West Campus. Austin police received 239 reports of burglary of a residence in the 12 months that ended Aug. 1 in East Riverside compared with 71 reports in West Campus. Police received 380 reports of burglary of a vehicle over the course of a year in East Riverside compared to 228 reports in West Campus. Auto thefts were also less prevalent in West Campus, with 27 reported incidents versus 80 in East Riverside.

Vanladingham pointed to the mixed use of the area as the predominant challenge of adequately addressing crime. The area boasts student housing, access to downtown, proximity to schools, newer condominiums, Section 8 low income housing and proximity to outdoor recreation spaces like the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail.

“This area is made up of every type of Austinite possible,” Vanladingham said.

The West Campus population is 50-95 percent students, according to census and city demographic data. East Riverside has a student population spread out among multi-family housing units that comprises half of the population in some areas and as little as 10 percent in other parts of the neighborhood.

Crimes of Opportunity

Although each neighborhood has its own demographic and criminal patterns, officials for both West Campus and East Riverside stressed auto burglaries as a primary concern for students.

“The majority of crimes we see are crimes of opportunity, such as auto burglaries,” Gary Griffin, an APD district representative for the West Campus area, said.

Austin Eberle, electrical engineering junior and West Campus resident, said he worries about property crime where he lives. 

“There’s more money in this neighborhood than a lot of places, so I am worried about getting broken into or having stuff stolen,” Eberle said. “I’m more worried about property crime than personal injury.”

Eberle reported a theft to APD Aug. 31, just hours after Vallejo reported her apartment burglary in East Riverside. Eberle said he was expecting a package full of medication to treat his Type 1 diabetes. When the medication never arrived, Eberle was suspicious. Two days later someone found the package’s remnants on the street and turned them into police.

“It had been ripped open, and we found that whoever was responsible had stolen almost $1,000 worth of medication,” Eberle said.

Despite the theft, Eberle said he feels safe from violent crime in West Campus.

“I don’t think that’s going to happen much, even at night,” Eberle said. “As long as there’s at least one other person on the block, I feel safe from attack. Me, in particular, I’m a big guy, so I don’t feel like I have to worry.”

Ladonna Matchett, theatre and dance sophomore and East Riverside resident, said she hears her female friends talk about feeling unsafe in West Campus. She said she feels safer in Riverside. She noted similarities in the atmosphere, such as student drinking and partying. She has never been the victim of a crime.

“I think in both places there is an increased police presence because they are college areas with a lot of student homes,” Matchett said. “In West Campus you have a lot of partying and drinking, and you have the same over in Crossing Place and Riverside, also.”

In the year ending Aug. 1, police gave one citation for possession of alcohol by a person aged 17 to 20 in East Riverside, compared to 18 citations in West Campus.

The Color Question

East Riverside has a much higher concentration of students of color than West Campus, and city data shows that police have searched African Americans and Hispanics during routine stops more than white people.

Census data shows 47 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds in the area are Hispanic and 13 percent are African American. The Office of the Police Monitor issued a report in July 2012 that states during 2011, African Americans stopped by APD throughout the city had a 1 in 8 chance of being searched by police, compared to a 1 in 10 chance for Hispanics, 1 in 28 for Caucasians and 1 in 49 for Asians. Data does not show a disparity in the rate of finding contraband during searches of people of color compared to whites.

However, possible racial profiling does not usually factor into increased rates of violent crimes, said police monitor Margo Frasier, a former Travis County Sheriff. Most violent crimes are reported to police rather than being initiated by a law enforcement search, which limits the influence of racial profiling, Frasier said.

“If you see a higher rate of violent crime in an area, it’s probably because there is just more crime in that area,” Frasier said, not because police are targeting a particular area based on its racial makeup.

She said most complaints of alleged misconduct her office receives come from Central East Austin and the downtown area. The office doesn’t receive a disproportionate number of claims from East Riverside or West Campus, Frasier said.

Whether or not racial profiling is a factor in East Riverside crime, the neighborhood faces more instances of crime than West Campus.

Vanladingham, who spent a lot of time in East Riverside during her years at St. Edwards University, said she hopes the students living there will stay cautious and keep the area’s higher crime rate in mind. The area has a neighborhood watch program, but not many students participate.

“I too felt very safe and never thought of things like someone breaking into my apartment or walking through the parking lot at night alone,” she said. “It seemed so safe because there were other college kids around. However, students have to remember it is not just students living in that area.”

Printed on Friday, September 28, 2012 as: Violent crime more common in East Riverside

Photo Credit: Lawrence Peart | Daily Texan Staff

Editor’s Note: This is the second in a three-part series of stories examining the demographics of two neighborhoods where students live ­— West Campus and East Riverside. The last installment will run Sept. 28.

Students living in East Riverside may soon be forced to find apartments even farther from the University, which could lead to academic and social challenges.

Prices in the neighborhood are on the rise after zoning changes similar to those in West Campus have led to development of more luxury complexes. However, for most students it remains a more affordable option than most other neighborhoods.

Census data shows that many white and Asian undergraduates left East Riverside between 2000 and 2010, while the neighborhood continues to attract many Hispanic and black undergraduates with lower rental prices and a culture perceived as welcoming.

Today rising prices are beginning to push these undergraduates from the neighborhood since the passage of the East Riverside/Oltorf Combined Neighborhood Plan, or EROC, in 2006, said Gayle Goff, co-chair of the neighborhood team which represented EROC during its planning process.

“Students who were looking for and are going to be looking for affordable housing have been displaced,” Goff said. “All of the truly affordable apartments have been razed in order to build more expensive, higher-density complexes.”

EROC is a plan intended to increase available housing near Austin’s urban core. The city changed regulations to allow developers to build taller complexes, on the condition that they make 10 to 20 percent of the units “affordable.” Affordability is based on the median household income in a given city, as defined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Affordable units must be priced at 60 percent of a median family income and can be as high as $1,000 per month. It is difficult to apply that affordability standard to students, Goff said.

“All of the asphalt that existed in parking areas is going to be massively increased by height,” Goff said. “I know that the places that were truly affordable to older residents were torn down, and I don’t agree with how affordability is being defined now.”

The 2010 American Community Survey estimates that 5,598 undergraduate college students in Austin live in East Riverside. Some of these students may attend Huston-Tillotson University, St. Edward’s University or Austin Community College.

North Campus, Hancock and Far West student neighborhoods have not experienced the same zoning and development changes that West Campus and East Riverside have. Because of urban planning designed to restrict high-rise development, the population of these neighborhoods has not grown in the past decade.

“A PORT OF ENTRY”
Beginning with the creation of the UT bus system in 1969, a large population of students began to live farther from campus in student neighborhoods around the city of Austin.

City demographer Ryan Robinson said East Riverside has long been one of these neighborhoods.

“Riverside was created in the 1970s as an off-campus location for University of Texas students,” Robinson said. “Since 1975 it has played a few roles, and one role was to become a port of entry for international immigrants. Today that port has remained relatively constant.”

East Riverside has become an immigrant community for Hispanics and some Asians because of the historic availability of cheaper housing, Robinson said.

“Most of the Hispanic and Latino population living in Riverside isn’t students. They are more workforce related,” Robinson said. “They are living in the multi-family stock in Riverside because it is affordable.”

While the median cost of contract rent in West Campus rose from $610 in 2000 to $958 in 2010, the median cost of contract rent in East Riverside rose from $571 to $669, census records show.

During this time period, the Hispanic population in East Riverside increased from 37 percent to 47 percent of the college-age population, and the black population grew from 6.3 percent to 13 percent.

Since the creation of new housing in West Campus, the percent of college-age students in East Riverside who are white declined from 44 percent to 29 percent, and the Asian population declined from 9.7 percent to 6 percent, census records show.

Business and psychology senior Maritza Rodriguez, a Hispanic member of the Latino Leadership Council, said she moved from West Campus to East Riverside because of the lower cost of rent and the more “welcoming” environment.

“I could afford to live in [West Campus] because of a roommate, and when I wanted to get away from a roommate situation I could pay for a single apartment with furniture included in Riverside,” Rodriguez said.

“In Riverside, you went there and you could see people socializing outside, and it felt less uncomfortable than in West Campus.”

Psychology sophomore Casie Clay, who transferred to UT this year from UT-San Antonio, now lives in East Riverside and said she “doesn’t feel out of place” as a white student living there.

“When I tell people I live in Riverside, they are so surprised I live in the east side,” Clay said. “But I don’t think it’s as bad here as everybody seems to think. I’ll take $385 for my own room and a bus that comes to my own door over triple that price in West Campus.”

FARTHER AND FARTHER
Earlier this year, the University’s Task Force on Undergraduate Graduation Rates identified commuting to school from neighborhoods across town, like East Riverside, as a problem for academic success that reduced chances of graduating in four years.

Students living farther from the University are less likely to be involved in the social and academic life of the university, said Gilberto Ortega-Rivera, a student member of the task force who now works for the University.

“When you look at the data we put together, you see that the farther you live from campus, the less likely you’re going to be involved in academic activities,” Ortega-Rivera said. “You’re also less likely to attend events like the Hex Rally or the Torchlight Parade.”

With less sense of community, commuter students become more likely to suffer academically, Ortega-Rivera said.

“Some of the friends I had at Riverside, they would be less likely to go to the gym or study at the PCL all night before the test,” Ortega-Rivera said. “I think there’s something telling to that when it comes to grades.”

Ashley Cue, a Hispanic undeclared senior who has lived in East Riverside for four years, said she has experienced these problems as a student commuter.

Cue said because she lives so far from the hub of student life, she sometimes feels out of place.

“These experiences caused me to feel out of place and a bit depressed when I started my first year in the University,” Cue said. “At times, [living in East Riverside caused] my grades to slip up.”

Ortega-Rivera said these problems become more common as the cost of living near campus pushes students farther from UT.

“I don’t know if there’s anything UT-Austin can do about this, but as real estate becomes more expensive, it’s pushing more low-income students away from the University,” Ortega-Rivera said. “I don’t think [students] know where they will end up being pushed to.”

URBAN PRESSURE
Since the passage of EROC in 2006, the urban landscape of East Riverside has begun to change.

The city envisioned EROC as a way to let more residents live closer to Austin’s urban core, because it expands the amount of land available for taller high-rises and creates incentives for high-density construction.

Karen Paup, vice-chair of Austin Community Development Commission, said development now spurred by EROC has been problematic for students and low-
income families.

“EROC and the area east of it are a real problem area, where you have a lot of students and working-class families living,” Paup said. “The students need to live closer to campus and so does the workforce, and Riverside has some of the last affordable rents in the city.

Paup said the incentive to build luxury apartments since EROC has displaced renters by not creating equally affordable housing.

“EROC and the corridor plan now being considered for the rest of Riverside will not be able to create housing that will match existing affordable units in the area,” Paup said. “The incentives being used keep the prices of some apartments below market price, but grants or other programs will be needed to produce deeper affordability. So far there have already been some residents displaced.”

The housing bubble of 2008 delayed construction of new buildings, but developers are now taking on East Riverside projects, said Malcolm Yeatts, who represented East Riverside with Goff during EROC’s creation.

“There were a lot of affordable buildings that got torn down and then the real estate bust happened, creating lot of vacant land in Riverside,” Yeatts said. “Since the economy has recovered, yes, that construction has started again.”

Yeatts said ongoing development is now concentrated close to I-35, and he is not sure if it would affect student housing prices.

“Generally there’s a trend with higher-density zoning where there’s a whole lot more units in the area, but they aren’t going to be in the price range that most students are going to consider affordable,” Yeatts said.

“Right now it’s further away from the solidly built student housing [that is] closer to Pleasant Valley Drive.”

“THE HAND They Are Dealt”
Jesus Guevara, an associate academic adviser in the School of Undergraduate Studies, lived in East Riverside for four years as an undergraduate from 2005 to 2009 and now advises many students who commute from the neighborhood.

Guevara said he has seen the new buildings rising in West Campus and has heard students worry about being “pushed out.”

“Students are starting to see these new buildings go up and know they are going to be gentrified,” Guevara said. “Down the road, they worry that management is going to raise their prices when other expensive buildings come in.”

The high cost of housing in other parts of Austin has long resulted in problems of another sort for East Riverside residents with limited options because of limited income, Guevara said.

“It feels almost like Riverside apartments know their students have nowhere else to go, and management is pretty bad as a result,” Guevara said. “I’ve had my own issues with stuff not getting done on time, lost checks and all those kind of issues. Riverside complexes know they don’t have to fix this, so bad things happen to the students again because they have to deal the hand they are dealt.”

Latin American studies senior Yadira Ramos Luna, a Hispanic member of the Latino Leadership Council, said she has experienced management problems at her apartment in East Riverside.

“When me and my roommates moved into our apartment, it was infested with fleas,” Luna said. “We had to go together to the management office every day for a week and a half before they agreed to change the carpet and clean the sofa.”

Luna said the complex also lost her checks and billed her multiple times with late fees when she had paid the rent on time.

“People ask me why I don’t change to other places, and I tell them it’s all the same wherever you go,” Luna said. “My roommate tells me that at University Estates, it’s much worse. I only pay $400 for an apartment, so I can’t say much, and I can’t go and pay for a luxury place in West Campus or somewhere else.”

Gavin Short, property manager at University Estates, said he believed there was no difference in service quality between complexes in Riverside and West Campus. The complex is one of the largest in the area.

“There are communities in both markets geared toward various price points and offering various amenities,” Short said. “It may be true that there are communities in either location that are better at operating the communities than others, but that would have more to do with the management companies, site staff, ownership, etc. rather than the physical address of the property.”

The Austin Planning Commission, a program of Austin City Council, is deliberating a plan similar to EROC that would apply to neighborhoods even farther east. City officials said they don’t know where students and low-income families will go if prices in more parts of East Austin spike.

"When you aren’t around people of color and people of color are the hyper-other, then it becomes acceptable to do racist things," said History senior Joshua Tang.

Photo Credit: Zachary Strain | Daily Texan Staff

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a three-part series of stories examining the demographics of two neighborhoods where students live ­— West Campus and East Riverside. The next installment, about the makeup and history of Riverside student housing, will run Sept. 21.

The growing diversity of the UT student body has not spurred racial integration in student neighborhoods, census, city and UT records show.

The majority of Asian and white undergraduates living off campus reside in West Campus, while most Hispanic and black undergraduates live in East Riverside.

This trend has intensified in the past 10 years because of a convergence of socioeconomic inequality, disparate living costs in the two areas and alleged discrimination — and some fear it may not change.

Ryan Robinson, demographer for the City of Austin, said population growth in West Campus is the result of massive multi-family complexes built in the neighborhood since 2004 under a plan called the University Neighborhood Overlay.

Many of these new high-rises may not be affordable for Hispanic and black students, who are disproportionately from low-income backgrounds, Robinson said.

“West Campus has long been expensive and recently became enormously more expensive,” Robinson said. “Since income remains, unfortunately, associated with race, it could be that there is more racial segregation.”

These new high-rises also raised the total cost of living in West Campus, possibly creating an income barrier for Hispanic and black students, Robinson said.

According to The Daily Texan’s analysis of demographic data sets, more than 40 percent of all white undergraduates lived in West Campus in 2010, as well as 38 percent of Asian undergraduates. Twenty-two percent of Hispanic undergraduates and 15 percent of black undergraduates also lived in West Campus then.

These numbers are significantly higher for whites and Asians than in 2000, when only 27 percent of white undergraduates and 21 percent of Asian undergraduates lived in West Campus. Fifteen percent of Hispanic undergraduates and no black undergraduates lived in West Campus in 2000.

In Riverside from 2000 to 2010, the white population declined from 44 percent to 29 percent among college-age people, while Asians declined from 9.7 percent to 6 percent. College-age Hispanics increased from 37 percent to 47 percent, and blacks increased from 6.3 percent to 9 percent. The 2010 American Community Survey estimates that 5,598 undergraduates live in Riverside.

“Massive construction started in 2004 and was intended to allow more students to live closer to campus,” Robinson said. “The plan for that construction was to make the new apartments affordable, but the irony is that the exact opposite has occurred.”

The Daily Texan shared this data with city and UT officials, who have not yet returned requests for comment.

A Game of UNO
The University and the neighborhoods around campus were facing a swelling population problem in the late 1990s.

At that time, West Campus was a medley of small and aging apartments that did not allow new development, and the increased size of the UT student body had outgrown available rental housing near campus.

Many students had to commute from apartments across town, which hurt the University and hindered student success, said Mike McHone, a longtime Austin real estate broker who helped design today’s West Campus.

“When you look at the graduation time line, it became extended,” McHone said. “Class scheduling became less efficient and more costly. Alumni funding, it significantly dropped.”

Austin City Council brought the neighborhoods around campus into the Central Austin Neighborhood Planning Advisory Committee in 2002 to attract students to West Campus. CANPAC then created the Central Austin Combined Neighborhood Plan in 2004 to manage the future development of the University area.

The University Neighborhood Overlay, or UNO, was a key component, McHone said.

“You knock down [the older, smaller buildings] and build new housing that can house over 300 people on the same piece of land,” McHone said. “What we did was create an overlay to bring the University students back by doing that.”

The University Area Partners, the neighborhood association of West Campus, and developers interested in the area created UNO. It passed unanimously in Austin City Council in 2004. The University did not take a position on the plan at the time of its creation.

Affordable Housing
From 2000 to 2010 West Campus developers added about 5,236 new beds in high-rises, according to UAP. The average cost for a single bedroom in these apartment buildings today is between $900 and $1200, available listings show.

McHone said West Campus was always expensive, but the construction boom following UNO caused the cost of living in West Campus to stay lower than developers expected in 2004. Developers hoped to make high profits but had to offer lower rental rates because so many complexes opened at the same time, he said.

Richie Gill, a Plan II and economics senior who founded real estate agency Mr. West Campus, said the cost of monthly rent in West Campus has risen by 7 percent every year since 2004 and now runs between $700 and $900.

Gill said most of the new high-rises in West Campus are catering to a luxury market and were not built for low-income students.

“You’re going to get a lot of debt from building on expensive property in West Campus,” Gill said. “It wouldn’t make sense for developers to build these expensive buildings and target them for a low-income audience. The new buildings were more targeting a middle-class demographic from a suburb of Houston or Dallas.”

Today, the demographic makeup of West Campus is much different than that of the University.

In 2010, white undergraduates made up 51.7 percent population, compared to 63.8 percent in 2000. Hispanic undergraduates increased from 13.5 to 19.4 percent in the same period. Asian undergraduates increased from 14.9 to 17.9 percent. Black undergrads grew from 3.4 percent to 4.7 percent.

“The Value of Dirt”
Brian Donovan, a member of CANPAC and administrator of the Inter-Cooperative Council, a West Campus cooperative organization, said the cost of all West Campus apartments has risen since UNO as a result of rising property values.

According to Travis Central Appraisal District records, the average value of land occupied by high-rises in West Campus increased from $50 per square foot to $100 per square foot between 2004 and 2012. This led apartment owners to charge more for rent since they had to pay more in property taxes, Donovan said.

“The property taxes of all the land in West Campus went up when the new zoning went in, and you can’t fight the value of the dirt,” Donovan said. “A lot of the older apartments, students are living there, too, but now they are charging high rates because they can get away with it as the area becomes more expensive.”

These property taxes rose in response to demand for land in West Campus, which had became more profitable after UNO, Donovan said.

Inter-Cooperative Council doesn’t pay property taxes because it is a non-profit. Rent for a single room at one of the co-ops has risen from $600 to $685 since 2004 due to increased expenses, Donovan said.

Cathy Norman, president of University Area Partners, said the creators of UNO aimed bring all students to West Campus, not just a middle-class or white demographic.

“What we intended was to create housing for all students, not just any exclusive group,” Norman said. “Now, how we are doing on that is a little bit more of a complex question.”

Norman said UNO has been successful in bringing students closer to campus, but there may be flaws in the plan.

“We probably didn’t focus on ethnic diversity at all when we created this plan. I don’t think it was a priority then,” Norman said. “It takes an ongoing process. It’s not like you can have a static plan for ten years.”

Racial Tension
Even if more housing becomes affordable in West Campus, many black and Hispanic students may still choose not to live there, said physics senior Jazmin Estrada.

Lower prices may not improve an environment that many students of color consider hostile.

“In certain areas of West Campus, especially where there’s a lot of white Greek houses, you feel kind of uncomfortable,” said Estrada, who is a member of the Latino Leadership Council.

Estrada said she moved out of West Campus to Riverside after hearing about balloons filled with bleach being thrown at Hispanic students and seeing Facebook photos of a West Campus theme party where participants dressed up as “Cowboys” and “Illegal Aliens.”

Estrada, whose family moved from Mexico to the Rio Grande Valley before she was born, said she lives in Riverside because she, like many other first-generation students, cannot afford to live in West Campus.

“It’s kind of impossible to live in West Campus if you’re a first-generation college student, it’s so expensive,” said Estrada. “Most of us are on financial aid and a bunch of us could maybe afford to live there, but we would have to give up something else.”

History senior Joshua Tang, who is Asian and black, said part of the problem is low Hispanic and black representation in the area. Most white students in West Campus do not commit racist acts in the neighborhood but may look the other way if racist incidents occur, he said.

“When you aren’t around people of color and people of color are the hyper-other, then it becomes acceptable to do racist things,” said Tang, who is a student associate in the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement.

Tang has also experienced racism in West Campus.

“As I was moving into my apartment in West Campus, someone threw [the n-word] at me from their balcony,” Tang said. “Very recently someone dropped a balloon that had bleach in it very close to me. Thankfully, it missed.”

Tang says some white students believe that students of color receive favorable treatment from University admissions and other programs, which might be why they act racially intolerant.

“There are people from homogeneous areas who think people who belong at the University of Texas should look like them,” said Tang.

Premed freshman Meagan Elferink, a member of Zeta Tau Alpha sorority, said West Campus is less diverse than most parts of Texas. She graduated from Ball High School in Galveston, where she said different racial groups are equally represented. West Campus seems exclusive to students from a “certain type of background,” she said. She lives in the Castillian, a private dormitory at 24th and San Antonio streets.

At Ball, “it didn’t matter where you were from or how much money you had,” Elferink said. “I think that’s a more realistic representation of society.”

The UT Police Department and the Austin Police Department say they have received no reports of bleach-filled balloons being thrown at students.

UT students concerned about alleged racial discrimination in West Campus and at UT will meet at 7 p.m. Sept. 18 in UTC 2.112A. The event will feature student panelists sharing their experiences with discrimination at UT.

Going Forward
Alan Robinson, administrator of West Campus cooperative organization College Houses Cooperatives, is supporting the Affordable Housing Initiative that will go before Austin City Council on Sept. 27.

High-rises built in West Campus since UNO was established must offer between 10 and 20 percent of their units at “affordable” rates, but the definition of what was affordable was very high, Alan Robinson said.

“Someone who qualified for an affordable room was expected to pay a little over $1,000 per month for rent,” Alan Robinson said. “Those were [U.S. Department of] Housing and Urban Development definitions, and weren’t based at all on students.”

The AHI will change the definition of an affordable room from city-wide averages based on families to a different algorithm, lowering it to about $700, he said.

“That’s still pretty high, but I think it’s going to help a lot of people out,” he said.

The AHI will also change the definition of an affordable unit to an affordable bedroom, which Alan Robinson says will double the number of affordable rooms in West Campus.

“They currently have to provide about 20 percent of their units at affordable rates,” he said. “By changing the definition to bedrooms, we think we can double the number of people living in affordable housing.”

West Campus faces both economic and racial challenges. For students choosing whether to live in the neighborhood, the two often go hand in hand.