Fort Worth streets (and message boards) are abuzz this week and not just with chatter about the Frogs in Omaha. There is also much talk about Frog habitats. The City of Fort Worth is considering an overlay district in areas surrounding TCU that would change occupancy restrictions and affect neighbors, property owners, and renters around campus. If you haven’t heard about this yet, the109 published a great article yesterday. I’ll do my best to break down the who, what, where, and why for you.
Who? The City of Fort Worth, with support from some neighbors and some city council members, is considering an overlay district.
What? Throughout the City of Fort Worth, the average number of unrelated adults in a single-family dwelling is around three, but in the area surrounding TCU, the number is five. The proposal seeks to create an overlay district that would change the number of unrelated adults allowed to live in a home zoned Residential “A” (single family) to three.
Where? This map released by the city shows that those neighborhoods include Berkeley Place, Bluebonnet Hills, Bluebonnet Place, Colonial Hills, Frisco Heights, Paschal, Park Hill, Park Hill Place, Tanglewood, University Place, University West, Westcliff and Westcliff West. The yellow highlighted areas are the homes zoned single family and thus those that would be affected by the overlay. Why? Recently, other cities like Austin and Dallas (specifically University Park around SMU) have voted for similar overlay districts with the goal to preserve the single-family homes that have existed in these areas for decades, and to prevent speculative developers from replacing reliable housing stock. I imagine Fort Worth’s motivation is like minded. Also, many neighbors hope to prevent safety issues with car-lined streets, the look of unkept yards and littered front porches and the nuisance of nocturnal neighbors. According to the109, Fort Worth’s proposal arose because city council members were receiving complaints that many homes around TCU were not being used in a manner consistent with single-family use. District 3 City Councilman Zim Zimmerman said, “It’s almost like a fraternity house” in reference to some four and five-bedroom homes that lease to college students.
Many newly constructed homes designed for roommates (students) are popping up on neighborhood streets on the fringe of campus. Many of these homes have no master bedroom or master bath and the kitchen is minimal (good for what it represents, a place to warm up leftovers). They are not occupied by families, because they frankly aren’t designed to be family homes.
I seem to be picking on the homes specifically designed for student life, but the reality is many of the homes currently rented to students that will be affected in the proposed overlay area were originally built as single family homes and have evolved into student homes because of their proximity to campus. Keep in mind, the duplexes, like the one in my photo are not zoned A single family, but “B” residential, so the occupancy on these may not be restricted in the same way.
The City of Fort Worth’s proposal is just now in the discussion stage and they are asking for input about the idea from affected neighborhood associations and property owners.
So, let’s discuss!
A number of area residents have already spoken out in favor of the overlay citing the benefits of cleaner streets, fewer parked cars on the roads, quieter neighborhoods and the potential for better quality of home construction and maintenance. All of these are great and applicable goals.
Around the Bloom Real Estate Group office, many co-workers, prominent title company reps and lenders have given the topic quite a bit of discussion and thought. Many of us are homeowners and TCU neighbors ourselves living “in the yellow” on the proposed overlap map.
While I can see valid arguments for both sides, from a Realtor’s perspective, my first thought is about the general economic impact on the neighborhoods, our clients and the homeowners.
These are the questions I’m asking:
- Should the overlay “grandfather in” existing rental homes/boarding houses? If there is no grandfather clause, a negative economic impact is possible. With an overlay that limits the number of unrelated parties that can live together, these purpose-built structures cannot be used as intended. In my opinion, the overlay will render them obsolete. Sounds good? Well, maybe not. Some of these investors are currently bringing in approximately $1,000 per bedroom per month in rent from the student tenants. When the investors’ profit models break down the vacancy will rise (along with the banker’s blood pressure). If they have loans on the properties, the impact could be incredibly detrimental, and not just to the investor. Instead of having too many large vehicles parking on the street we might have, at best, a flood of houses for sale that aren’t palatable or, at worst, foreclosures up and down the block. Okay, foreclosures is a little alarmist, but you see what I’m getting at?
- What about TCU parents? Parents of TCU students usually have money and they are savvy investors themselves. I often sell homes to TCU parents and it’s not uncommon for them to specifically request streets without a lot of students. Instead, they prefer more picturesque streets with dreamy well-kept homes and beautiful yards because they want their sons and daughters, and their investment property, in a “good” neighborhood. Are we going to take these buyers out of the market with an overlay? As a Realtor, I don’t like losing them. As a neighbor, should we be concerned that reducing the pool of prospective (very ready and very able) buyers may reduce demand and thus impact home values?
- In addition to career investors and TCU parents we also need to consider those (you know who you are!) who have acquired one, two, four or five rental properties over the years as an income supplement and savings vehicle. Again, if not grandfathered in, these homeowners would likely have a significant increase in vacancies and therefore a loss on their returns. Could this scenario lead to a flood of similar properties being for sale in the neighborhood, therefore depressing values?
- As Bloom Real Estate Group published on the blog last month, the TCU campus has many positive impacts on the property values (If you own a home near campus, this is a great read!) in the surrounding neighborhoods. Is sharing our neighborhoods with the students living among us is, in some ways, our fortune?
I also would like to better understand the following:
- As TCU continues to build more on-campus housing options, won’t this alleviate some of the problem naturally?
- What are the plans for implementation and enforcement?
- Who exactly was involved in creating the proposed area map and what factors were considered?
- Will this border drawn around campus in the proposed map just push students into neighborhoods on the edge of the circle? Parts of Westcliff and Tanglewood are left out of the map. Why? What could be done to alleviate that issue?
Perusing the message boards and comments I have seen a variety of thoughts:
- “I like TCU students living nearby…”
- “Tearing down homes to build 5 bedroom cheap houses just for students will ruin the neighborhood…”
- “Increased government interference is not acceptable…”
- “I hope this passes for many reasons. But, I will say college kids don’t need 4 roommates to have a loud wild party. Two are plenty capable…”
- “The 5 college boys living next door were sweet but their parties and the way they cared for their house left a lot to be desired. The only good thing was that there was typically always someone home.”
- “We have a lot invested in these homes and rent houses are the beginning of the end…”
- “We all love TCU, but why is the city counsel interested in helping a private institution that has billions in the bank full it’s dorm rooms?”
- “Overall I like the plan. I mean, if a rich parent wants to buy their TCU kid a house in some pristine, non-student-area, then would they really want more than four roommates living together in a single-family house? “
- “College campuses are great assets – like major league stadiums and amusement parks. But the environment is rarely optimum for single-family homes. If you want a house to live in, be aware of the downsides…”
- “This change will result in an even greater concentration of students in the areas bordering the proposed boundaries…”
- “Given the new dorm construction on campus, this is going to be less of an issue in the future…”
- “How much tax revenue will the city loose when the property values decrease as the value of many of these homes are based on rental rates and not the true value of run down homes that only have value because students will rent them on a temporary basis?”
- “I used to live in the Mistletoe Heights neighborhood, and many years ago, because of the actions of a few, many households saw the effect (politically/emotionally/visually) of having an historical overlay thrust on us.”
- “Once the city gov’t is “in it” how often do things really get better? “
- “A knee-jerk reaction by our neighborhood.
“I feel badly for the homeowners who are/will be affected by this “proposed” outcome. There are valid concerns on both sides of this discussion.”
Overlay or not, I’m all for preserving the integrity of some of Fort Worth’s finest classic neighborhoods. I’m definitely not against the idea, but I would like to learn more before deciding where I stand. If you’re ready to provide the city with your input, Contact Dana Burghdoff at 817-392-8018 to share your thoughts and learn more.