Student housing on Glenn Avenue

The Auburn City  Council approved a 90-day moratorium on new student-housing developments in the city at its meeting on Tuesday night.

The moratorium on new private dormitories and academic detached dwelling unit developments will go into effect on Feb. 27 after the ordinance is published in The Villager

The moratorium ordinance was unanimously recommended for approval by the Planning Commission at its January meeting.

"It was actually a little delayed," said Auburn Mayor Ron Anders about the timeline for getting the moratorium passed. "We did what we were advised to do by our legal counsel, and that's why it went through the Planning Commission and because it potentially could involve some rezoning."

The moratorium will give city staff the time needed to draft and propose changes to city zoning code and design standards that might help control what Anders has said is an oversaturation of student housing in Auburn. 

"To me, this is one of the most significant steps that this council could take to solve what I consider to be one of our most significant issues in this town, and that's the saturation of student housing," said Anders. "We are now saying we've got 90 days, after February the 27th, ... and we've got to come up with some solutions, and I'm very confident that the staff is already working toward some ideas that we'll begin to consider now. 

"It's certainly an important issue for our community. It's something I've been talking about for a while now, and I appreciate the council following this vision to approve this moratorium. And now, it's up to us and the staff to create some discussion and some debate about some ideas that can help solve this problem for the future."

The move to impose a moratorium capped off a more than year-long review of student housing in the Auburn area, during which time the Student Housing Task Force collected information to help determine what course of action the city should take. 

One key piece of information came last fall when city staff completed a near-comprehensive inventory of student housing in the city. The inventory showed that the city will have close to 36,000 beds — either completed, under construction or in the planning stages — that could fall under student multi-family, academic detached dwelling units or Auburn University on-campus housing. 

Some of the off-campus units will soon be categorized as affiliated "on-campus" student housing after the Auburn University Board of Trustees gave its approval for the university to lease more than 300 beds at 160 Ross on North Ross Street, according to a report by the Auburn Plainsman

Another key piece of information that delayed action by the task force and the council over the course of the past year was the direction the university would go in regards to its undergraduate enrollment numbers. 

Those numbers came last September, when the Board of Trustees gave its unofficial nod of approval to capping undergraduate enrollment at 25,000 students in the coming years. Undergraduate enrollment was 24,628 during the 2018-19 academic year. 

The total enrollment at the university is expected to increase from 30,440 in 2018-19 to about 32,000 in 2022-23, with the increase driven mostly by graduate students.

The city needed both the inventory and projected university enrollment to help gauge the situation before acting. 

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