Construction projects of five San Marcos apartment complexes—all of them geared toward college students—are scheduled to finish in August as Texas State University’s fall semester gets underway.
With renters taking their pick among an estimated 3,530 new bedrooms, many apartment managers are having an increasingly difficult time finding enough tenants, said Jason Tarr, a real estate broker who owns the Great Locations rental location service.
“This year the apartment communities are going to see their biggest vacancy rate they’ve ever seen in San Marcos,” he said. “We’re overbuilt right now.”
Tarr said the increased competition is a cyclical boon for renters in San Marcos, where nearly three-fourths of the population lives in rental properties, according to 2011 census data. Apartment managers are reducing their prices, improving customer service and focusing on community relations, he added.
“It’s really good for the average Joe,” said Tarr, who estimates his company has helped about 20,000 people find housing since opening in 2003. “When apartments are overbuilt, it’s actually better for my business as well. Apartments call us daily and say, ‘Hey, this is what we have.’ They really need help.”
Slower in the summer
Robin Davis, who tracks apartment data for the market research company Austin Investor Interests, said San Marcos’ apartment occupancy rate was 95.2 percent in the first quarter of 2013, the highest first-quarter occupancy rate since 2000.
The summer is always slower for San Marcos, Davis said, but she added that she expects occupancy rates to rebound in the fall.
“The level has gone down slightly, but 95.2 percent occupancy is nothing to balk at,” Davis said.
Apartments opening in time for the fall semester include The Avenue, with 1,142 bedrooms off River Ridge Parkway at I-35, and Vistas San Marcos, with 540 bedrooms on North Fredericksburg Street a block south of campus. New apartments will probably fill up because college students prefer to live in new facilities, so older apartments “are going to suffer the most,” Tarr said.
Texas State’s enrollment growth and changes to its campus housing requirements are fueling the recent multifamily construction projects. Before 2010, Texas State required students with fewer than 60 credit hours to live on campus. Because of increased enrollment, the requirement was reduced to 30 hours in fall 2010.
Most of San Marcos’ new and proposed apartments rent by the bedroom, which caters to college students who don’t wish to be responsible for their roommates.
Developers are continuing to plan new apartment projects in San Marcos. In January, the City Council approved a rezoning request to build The Woodlands of San Marcos, a 1,000-bedroom complex on River Road. In addition, the City Council voted June 18 to allow a 1,112-bedroom student housing project near the intersection of Craddock Avenue and Wonder World Drive.
Also June 18, council members denied a request by developer Darren Casey to rezone property for apartments on Sessom Drive across from Texas State. Casey had wanted to build a five-story shopping and housing complex with 800 bedrooms.
Numerous San Marcos residents voiced opposition to the three projects, and many have argued the supply is outpacing demand for multifamily housing in the city.
“We don’t need apartments right now,” said Diane Wassenich, director of the San Marcos River Foundation. “Owners are having trouble even filling their apartments.”
Other residents argue the projects encroach on established single-family neighborhoods. However, at the June 18 City Council meeting, Councilwoman Kim Porterfield said the opposition to apartments has turned into discrimination against college students.
“We need to work together to solve these problems,” Porterfield said. “End this us-versus-them and this hatred and this really bad feeling that I get listening to people talk about how students are ruining our neighborhoods and ruining our lives, because I just don’t believe it.”