Auburn Mayor Ron Anders has proposed an ordinance to put any new student housing developments on hold.
Anders pitched the plan Tuesday at the City Council’s Committee of the Whole meeting.
The current City Council took office a little over a year ago and soon after established a student housing task force, responding to complaints from residents and businesses over a rising number of student developments that seem to cater too much to the needs of students.
“We looked at a lot of different things, including having some learning sessions with different groups of students on campus that was put together through the student affairs over at Auburn, which we were grateful for,” Anders said.
The mayor said that process has shown that the number of beds in the city of Auburn designed specifically for students is too high and he proposed that something needs to be done.
“We have got a large number of beds that we believe that number could be anywhere from 37,000, around that number of beds, that have been dedicated and built for students,” Anders said.
What makes this information more pertinent is Auburn University’s decision to put enrollment guidelines in place.
“We also know that Auburn University has decided their undergraduate enrollment is going to stay right at the 25,000 mark, their graduate enrollment is going to stay around five with a potential to grow up to six (thousand),” Anders said. “But we know that that is going to be steady, it’s going to remain where it is.”
Bobby Woodard, Auburn University’s senior vice president for student affairs, has reached out to local apartment operators about leasing existing private student housing, with the option to buy at some point.
“We had a lot of interest from apartment complexes in the city, a lot more than we thought we would have,” Woodard told Auburn’s board of trustees last month. “… I do believe some of apartment owners think our community might be overbuilt.”
In order to figure out the best course of action, Anders asked the council if they would agree to ask staff to draft an ordinance to be proposed at the next council meeting.
This city ordinance would place a 90-day moratorium, or hold, on any new student housing developments. The 90 days would give the council and staff time to figure out what should be done long-term for the future.
Anders gave several reasons for the moratorium, including student housing beds exceeding the rate they should, the Auburn University enrollment guidelines and the need to evaluate traffic, safety density and more.
Tommy Dawson agreed that something should be done, but questioned the amount of time given — 90 days.
“We need to do something because I’m afraid we’ve outgrown our roads and streets and I’m also a little worried we may have outgrown our police division,” he said.
Dawson added that what the council would like is to see smaller projects, rather than big ones.
Council member Brett Smith wondered if 90 days is enough time for the staff.
“I just don’t want to put a Band-Aid on a shotgun wound,” Smith said.
City Manager Jim Buston assured council members that 90 days would give the staff enough time to find a more permanent solution.
“Staff has been working on a variety of options for some time now,” Buston said. “We have internally been discussing many of the things that the mayor read. What we have to do — we have possibly some other options as well.”
“But what we have to do now is kind of put pen to paper and get that down in such a way that we can vet it again, vet it legally.”
The council agreed to ask the staff to draft the ordinance. This ordinance will be officially introduced at the Dec. 17 council meeting.
The ordinance would not go into immediate effect. Buston said he suspects it would begin in January.