Student housing on Glenn Avenue

The Auburn Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend approval of a moratorium on new student housing in the city of Auburn. 

The vote comes 9-0 in favor of an ordinance that would cease development of the city’s two student-housing uses, private dormitories and academic detached dwelling units, for a period of 90 days if adopted by the City Council. 

A public hearing was held at the Commission’s Jan. 9 meeting, although no one in attendance chose to speak on the issue. 

The moratorium was proposed by Mayor Ron Anders at a Committee of the Whole Meeting in December. 

The issue of student housing has been prominent in the community for years, but received renewed focus in late 2018 when newly-elected Mayor Ron Anders appointed a Student Housing Task Force to study the issue. As part of the process, city staff created a comprehensive student-housing inventory for the city. 

The inventory showed that the city will have upwards of 36,000 bedrooms, either completed, under construction or in the planning stages, that fall under student multi-family, academic detached dwelling units, or Auburn University on-campus housing.

With growing community concern and factors such as data from the housing inventory and Auburn University’s new enrollment cap policy, which holds undergraduate enrollment at roughly 25,000 students per year, the ordinance, if ultimately approved, would allow the city time to address the surplus of student housing, which has already surpassed the 400 beds per year absorption rate recommended by the city-commissioned housing study, the Danter Report.

The 90-day period would allow the exploration of changes to current building and zoning codes. Changes in both arenas could make a large impact.

Under current building codes, developers are allowed to stack wood-frame construction on podium levels. A change to this could limit the number of private dormitories coming into the city as a result of higher construction costs.

Under current zoning code, the city allows up to 225 beds an acre in Urban Neighborhood-West and allows a density of 85 beds per acre in Urban Neighborhood-East. According to Planning Director Forrest Cotten, the city could benefit from addressing some of the easier issues with density allowance. 

"We know that there’s some fairly low-hanging fruit in the zoning ordinance that we could look at if there’s a desire to put a damper on development,” he said.

The city can also address the excess of ADDUs with more restrictive regulations on impervious surface ratio and floor area ratio in changes made to zoning ordinance. 

The commission’s recommendation means that the proposal will now be passed to the City Council for consideration at its Feb. 18 meeting. 

The meeting will also have a public hearing for residents to address the council. 

If the council approves a moratorium, it could go in effect as early as Feb. 27. 

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