City Council unanimously extends moratorium on student housing

Zach Johnson | @ZachJohnsonCW, News Editor

On Tuesday the Tuscaloosa City Council unanimously extended a ban on the construction of student housing developments with more than 200 beds until May 1, 2022. The City Council will revisit the ban by May 1. 

The ban, which prevents the construction of large student housing complexes, was originally adopted in June 2020 and has been extended multiple times. 

City Council President Kip Tyner said apartment complexes may not be able to meet their target number of residents given the increasing enrollment of online students. 

“It’s very concerning when you have that many large complexes. They can go bad, you know,” Tyner said. “I think we need to put the brakes on, for a while, anyway.” 

In January 2019, the City Council declared a moratorium on developments with more than 200 beds, which were chiefly student-oriented housing developments. The City Council passed a new set of rules for large-scale developments in August 2020 to more precisely regulate student housing. 

The new set of rules closed zoning loopholes that developers had exploited to get easy construction approval. It instituted a partial ban on four- and five-bedroom apartments in large developments and initiated an effort to write a new legal definition of student housing that differentiates student housing from large apartment complexes.

In September 2020, the City Council banned the construction of student housing complexes with more than three bedrooms. Smaller developments, like duplexes and triplexes, were not subject to the ban. Data from the Office of Urban Development suggested that student housing construction had outpaced UA enrollment.

Large scale student housing developments have been a contentious point of debate for the Tuscaloosa City Council in the past. In 2013, the city’s Student Rental Housing Task Force issued nine recommendations to the Planning and Zoning Committee to prevent large student housing developments from proliferating throughout Tuscaloosa. 

Still, student housing projects have earned some approval. In September 2019, the City Council passed a resolution allowing the construction of a large development on Rice Mine Road, which was just 17 beds shy of violating the moratorium.