Tenant Advisory Board at UT-Austin

…lets make University Apartments life better!

Welcome to new TAB members!

Posted by richasardana on August 24, 2010

University Apartments Tenants Advisory board is delighted to welcome several new members on board.

Sabrina Lo – Brackenridge Apartments

Natasha Shcherbakova – Brackenridge Apartments

Preeti Mudliar – Gateway Apartments

Chuck Stokes – CA representative

Neil Behzad Fazel – Colorado Apartments

Mohammad H. Rahmati – Colorado Apartments

Congratulations and Welcome!

It is also time to bid farewell to some of our enthusiastic members who have completed their two year terms.

Debby Kalk – Colorado Apartments

Richa Sardana – Gateway Apartments

Leo Ma – Colorado Apartments

Teri Adams – CA representative

All of you were a great bunch of people to work with. Good luck!

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Call for New TAB Members

Posted by richasardana on March 31, 2010

If you live here, you probably love it here! Consider giving back by volunteering for the
Tenant Advisory Board (TAB). TAB works to keep University Apartments (UA) engaged
and responsive to student residents and their families. Several board positions will be coming
open in the next few months and TAB is currently recruiting candidates from all three
complexes.
TAB operates under the auspices of the Division of Housing and Food Service (DHFS). TAB
reviews issues related to our housing, including rent increases, payment options, strategic
planning, and other budget and policy issues, family and safety issues. When appropriate,
TAB makes recommendations to DHFS management. TAB reviews and decides on resident
complaints through the appeals process outlined in the resident handbook. Additionally, TAB
is directly responsible for oversight of the community gardens at the Colorado and
Brackenridge complexes. Over the past year, TAB has also been actively involved in
monitoring the Brackenridge Tract planning, issues related to parking and traffic in the
complexes, shuttle bus services, and maintenance issues.
TAB is comprised of two representatives from each of the UA complexes, along with a
representative from the Community Advisors and facilities staff,. TAB meets twice each
month during long semesters and once monthly during the summer. TAB members commit
to serving a two-year term. Best of all, TAB members are compensated $30 for each meeting
they attend. Over the course of a year, that might be equivalent to your rent for one month!
To apply, please email your resume and a cover letter. Explain why you are interested in
serving on TAB and highlight any experience you have in volunteering and community
service.

Send to:
Debby Kalk
Chair, TAB
debby@debbykalk.com
Applications are due by April 16, 2010. Once we receive applications, TAB will schedule
interviews and make decisions in May. Thank you so much for considering this valuable
community service opportunity!

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Community Gardens Operating Procedures

Posted by richasardana on March 31, 2010

Adopted February 2010

The Community Gardens are an amenity of the University Apartments (UA) complexes. Gardeners must be student residents of University Apartments, or resident members of the student’s family. Management of the Gardens is the responsibility of the UA Tenant Advisory Board (TAB).

  1. General Rules
    1. The Community Gardens are organic gardens. Herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, and chemical fertilizers are not permitted. Non-commercial, organic fertilizers, such as animal manure or human waste, are strictly prohibited.
    2. General supervision of the garden is the responsibility of TAB. TAB has the right to suspend or terminate Community Gardens with probable cause. TAB is an operating unit within the Department of Housing and Food Service.
    3. Gardeners are responsible for the overall maintenance and appearance of the garden. Seasonal clean-up events may be scheduled for this purpose.
    4. Overall supervision of the Gardens is the responsibility of the TAB Treasurer.
    5. Daily supervision of each garden is the responsibility of the Community Garden Manager (Section II).
  2. Manager
    1. Each garden will have a manager. If no one volunteers to be the manager, TAB and University Apartments management reserve the right to close the garden.
    2. TAB will select or recruit a manager for each garden from current gardeners at each site who volunteer for the position.
    3. The manager reports to TAB’s Treasurer.
    4. TAB’s Treasurer and University Apartments management will provide the garden manager with training on the budget and Pro-Card purchasing requirements.
    5. Each manager is exempted from paying annual dues.
    6. The manager is the contact person for residents seeking a garden plot. When a plot is available, the manager rents it on a first come, first serve basis. For gardens with a waiting list, the plot is offered to the next person on the list.
    7. The manager provides new gardeners with an orientation to the garden, provides a copy of these rules and membership Agreement.
    8. The manager supervises the daily operation of the garden and ensures that gardeners are in compliance with operating procedures.
    9. The manager advises gardeners of any violations of the rules and has the authority to terminate any gardener for violations
    10. At the conclusion of each planting season, the manager inventories tools and supplies and prepares a budget proposal for the following season.
  3. Fees and Payments
    1. The fee for gardening is $15 per year, following the calendar year. For gardeners who move into, or move out of, University Apartments mid-year, the fee is $10 for the half-year. There are no other pro-ration arrangements.
    2. The garden fee is billed by University Apartments through the student’s university account, in the same way as rent is billed and paid.
    3. Billing occurs in January for a full year rental and in July for a half-year rental.
    4. There are no refunds or reimbursements.
    5. Gardeners who lose their garden key will be charged $10 for a replacement.
    6. Gardeners who lose tools or cause other garden damage may be assessed replacement and repair costs. The amount assessed will be determined by the manager in consultation with the TAB Treasurer.
    7. Any fines or assessments can be appealed to TAB. The final authority for assessing fines will be University Apartments manager.
  4. Budget and Expenditures
    1. The Community Gardens are funded by garden rentals.
    2. The garden manager will prepare a proposal budget for each season, following inventory at the close of the previous season.
    3. The TAB Treasurer will consult with garden managers in preparing the budget.
    4. The budget will be reviewed and approved by TAB, based on the recommendations of the Treasurer.
    5. The adopted budget will be shared with all gardeners electronically.
    6. On-going garden expenses that are budgeted may be purchased by going through the Pro-card process.
    7. Single items in excess of $50, and all non-budgeted items, must be approved by TAB.
    8. In an emergency, such as a weather emergency, University Apartment’s manager is authorized to approve purchases that are not budgeted or exceed the $50 threshold.
  5. Gardeners
    1. Each gardener must be a student resident of University Apartments, or a resident family member.
    2. When there are applicants on the waiting list, each family is restricted to one garden plot.
    3. The student resident is the responsible party who signs the Agreement and must ensure that family members know and follow all garden rules.
    4. The student resident must bring the signed and completed Agreement to the University Apartments office in order to be issued a garden key and to begin gardening. The Agreement will be kept in the student’s apartment file. The office will not accept an incomplete Agreement.
    5. Gardeners must sign the Agreement each year in order to continue gardening.
    6. Gardeners agree to maintain and protect the garden. This includes maintaining the security of the garden and tools, caring properly for garden property, and keeping their plot and common areas free of trash and excessive overgrowth. Gardeners will be fined if their plot is not cleaned properly upon vacating.
    7. Gardeners should report any problems to their manager immediately.
    8. Gardeners who will be vacating the garden should notify the manager as soon as possible.
  6. Revocation
    1. Garden rights may be terminated for failure to pay the rental fee, failure to plant for the season, or violation of any of these rules.
    2. The decision to terminate is made first by the manager, following a written warning.
    3. A gardener who has been terminated may appeal to TAB. TAB’s decision is final.
  7. Notice of these Operating Procedures
    1. Each gardener is provided with a copy of these Operating Procedures.
    2. A copy of these rules will be posted at the garden.
  8. Changes to these Operating Procedures
    1. TAB reserves the right to modify these Operating Procedures.
    2. Gardeners will receive a copy of revised Operating Procedures prior to any changes taking effect.
  9. Closing for Soil Revitalization and Water Cut-offs
    1. The garden will close once every five years to allow for composting and tilling.
    2. Gardeners will be required to remove all fencing and bamboo structures prior to closing.
    3. The next soil revitalization will be scheduled in December 2011/January 2012.
    4. Water to the gardens will be shut off any time there is a chance of a hard freeze. The decision to cut off water is solely the discretion of UA staff.
    5. As a precaution in case of freezing weather, water to the gardens will be routinely shut off over the winter break.

These Operating Procedures were adopted by the Tenants Advisory Board in February 2010.

Community Gardens Operating Procedures_pdf

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TAB’s Position Statement on the Brackenridge Tract

Posted by richasardana on November 21, 2009

The University of Texas at Austin Tenant Advisory Board (TAB) of the University Apartments prepared this position statement in response to the proposed redevelopment of the university’s Brackenridge Tract. Cooper, Robertson and Partners, the urban design firm hired by the University of Texas Board of Regents, developed conceptual plans of the area, releasing two proposals that include the razing and consolidation of all three complexes to build a new University Apartments complex on the site of the current Gateway complex. The proposal to eliminate housing on the Colorado and Brackenridge sites is of particular concern to current residents. Additional concerns arise regarding the details of the plan, including the affordability, safety, and density of the new complex. These concerns are based on Cooper, Robertson’s plan to build more than 800 apartments at the Gateway site, one that currently houses 200 units.

Based on resident (students and their families) surveys, TAB supports five key criteria:
1. Affordability
2. Proximity to campus
3. Proximity to Mathews Elementary
4. Family- and environmentally-friendly complex with green space
5. Increased number of total housing units

We encourage Regents and administrators to consider:
A) Affordability
1. Rent rates should be indexed to cost-of-living estimates for financial aid and teaching and research assistant salaries.
2. Square footage for apartments should be maintained or exceeded in order to ensure quality living standards for students and their families.


B) Family and environmental friendliness

1. Maintain standards that promote a family friendly environment and the presence of green space.
2. Maintain standards that promote environmental conservation, in accordance with University policies on new building practices.

Specific Change Proposition:
Build the new University Apartments Complex in the Brackenridge complex area.
This option presents the benefits of having a safe and family friendly environment with presence of green space, and can reduce construction costs since construction could occur in stages, and the apartment offices will not have to be relocated

TABposition_statement_BrackTract_2009_pdf

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What does a University Apartments’ Resident think about the future of Brackenridge Tract?

Posted by richasardana on October 6, 2009

Why is there so much speculation about the fate of the coveted Brackenridge tract? To the uninitiated, it is a part of the land that Col. George Washington Brack­en­ridge donated to the University of Texas in 1910 for educational purposes, hoping that it would become the site for a new main campus. His wish never materialized, and the ‘educational’ use to which the university put the land was a Biological Field Laboratory and housing for graduate and married students. However, as the city of Austin grew, so did the potential of this picturesque stretch of land as a revenue source. The focus of the Regents and the Brackenridge task force for use of the land has shifted from ‘educational purposes’ to ‘furthering the university’s mission’. The property will no doubt be a hot commodity in the real estate market. In 2006, the Board of Regents formed a task force that determined that the 74 acres that currently house the Colorado and Brackenridge Apartments did not meet the standard of “best and highest use” of the land.

The University Apartments Tenant Advisory Board conducted a survey that showed hundreds of students who live in these apartments beg to differ with the task force’s conclusion. Of the 244 respondents who participated in the survey, 95% were residents and reflected the direct effect the Regents’ actions will have on the students who live there.

As a rare example of affordable housing in an increasingly unaffordable city, University Apartments provide an incalculable value to UT as a recruitment tool. A clear 91% of the respondents rated affordable housing as essential to university housing. Other characteristics that students deemed important to their vision of university housing included proximity to the campus and consumer resources, located on a dedicated UT shuttle route, and in a safe and family-friendly environment. It is worth noting that the University has no expenses related to University Apartments. The apartments are self-financed; they have been built and paid for, and are maintained, with student rental payments.

On a ratings scale from “not important” to “essential,” about 78% of the respondents rated proximity to the campus as either important or essential, and another 79% considered being close to consumer resources such as affordable groceries as an essential or important factor. The proximity of University Apartments to shopping, schools, parks, and other amenities, as well as good bus service, and hike and bike trails, makes it possible to live and raise a family without the expense of a car. More than 90% of respondents considered it essential that university housing be located on a dedicated UT shuttle bus route.

About 70% of apartment residents are international graduate students, many with spouses and children who benefit from the unique set of support services that have developed to serve this diverse community. More than half of respondents considered it important or essential to live within a school district equivalent to Mathews Elementary, the primary school serving children living in University Apartments. Mathews has assembled staff and programs to specially serve the community. These services are critical in helping these children transition to the US educational system – and these services cannot be developed quickly.

The international community at University Apartments has developed a vibrant network. Over the years, residents have nurtured a supportive community that provides a rich array of educational, language, and cultural services for students and their families. This environment cannot be replicated with voucher programs, which notably can be changed or eliminated, thus offering no assurances to these students; neither can the proximity to campus, the strong sense of community or many of the amenities enjoyed by this unique, diverse, and highly educated population.

More than half of respondents are not optimistic that, should the apartments be relocated to another part of Austin that “an equally satisfactory relationship with another elementary school [could be established] within a reasonable period of time.” Residents feel that in addition to providing a community of peers, the apartments are located in a good neighborhood appropriate for raising children. Neighborhoods closer to the university, where many single undergraduate students live, are not compatible with family needs. More than 85% of respondents rated a safe, family-friendly environment, as essential to the graduate housing. When asked if they would be satisfied if the University Apartments moved to a different location if that location met other requirements, such as affordable, convenient, and safe, more than half felt they would be only partly or not satisfied at all.

Residents did appreciate the need for upgraded apartments that reflect values of environmental sustainability and stewardship. Also, more than half of respondents favored an increased number of housing units to accommodate unmet demand.

Many respondents wrote heart-felt comments. For example, one respondent wrote, “I am no longer just another student, but I am also a father who is also working and getting an education, but I am a father first, and whether it be the long walks at night in the safety of the apartments or just a morning jog to Town Lake, I feel there will never be another place that can provide the same quality of life than what The University of Texas at Austin has provided me with till now. Thank you UT.”

The demographics of the university housing consist of a vibrant network of international community. Over the years, residents have developed a supportive community providing a rich array of educational, language, and cultural services for international students and their families. This environment cannot be replicated with voucher programs, which notably can be changed or eliminated thus offering no assurances to these students; neither can the proximity to campus, the strong sense of community, nor many of the amenities enjoyed by this unique, diverse, and highly educated population.

The reputation of a university is a reflection of the quality of the work of its graduate students. Meeting a need for affordable housing, the apartments provide a worry-free place for students to live so that they can focus on their studies and research. These factors are critical to the advancement of the mission of the University of Texas.

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Building and Maintaining Healthy Relationships

Posted by richasardana on October 4, 2009

The initial phase of any relationship is full of excitement, but as time passes, maintaining a relationship requires  effort, understanding, cooperation and enhanced sensitivity for your partner’s needs. Often your spouse may also be a student, may be working, or he/she might just be staying at home. The pressures of work, deadlines, competition at school and work, may often leave you exasperated, and you may end up ignoring the need to nurture your personal relationships. How often have you vented your work frustration on your spouse when all they were trying to do was to make you feel better? As a result we pave way for increased ego, communication gaps that transcend into unbridgeable chasms, feeling utterly lonely.  It is human to disagree, but one needs to handle the disagreement in a matured manner. Remember you are not the only person handling stress, and you are also not the first person to do so! Also remember that we change, and so does our relationship. Talk to each other, make an attempt to listen to your partner with an open heart, use that understanding to resolve differences, grow with the changes in your relationship, and learn to adapt to positive changes. The need for this effort becomes a lot more if you are an international student who is traveled away from home. Your partner is your only family in a new place, and your closest emotional support. Work to keep that support intact rather than making your life fall apart. Also try to explore the community resources available to you. Be aware that there are several resources that are available to you as a student of UT Austin, and at the University Housing. Last but not the least, always remember that its not that hard if you want to make it work :)

TAB invited Dr. Sylvia Chen who works at UT Counseling and Mental Health Center to organize a workshop on “Empowering yourself and your relationships”. The workshop had some very useful tips to work on our personal relationships. Here I am attaching a handout that was provided. Have a look at it, I hope you find it helpful!

How to maintain healthy relationships_pdf

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Organic community gardens at University Apartments

Posted by richasardana on September 23, 2009

garden contestColorado garden

Ever noticed the flourishing organic gardens at University Apartments? The lush green spaces, with lots of home grown fruits and vegetables..ever wondered that you could have one of your own? Yes, and that too at a very minimal price! Contact the Garden manager at your Apartment complex, or contact TAB if you would like to own a garden plot.
TAB recently organized a community garden contest, here are a few pics of the event.

Posted in Community gardens | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

University Apartments and the Future of the Brackenridge Tract: A white paper prepared for University Apartments Tenant Advisory Board

Posted by richasardana on July 4, 2009

June 8, 2008

Is it an urban oasis or a prime real estate opportunity? A vibrant family neighborhood or an under‐utilized stretch of lakefront property? With stakeholders representing a range of overlapping and competing interests, probably one thing all sides can agree on is that the University of Texas at Austin’s Brackenridge Tract is a jewel. Whether that jewel is best left alone, or developed, or partly developed, is the focus of a study commissioned by the university’s Board of Regents. The Regents have hired Cooper, Robertson & Partners LLP, of New York, to produce a minimum of two master plans by June 2009.

Longtime regent Col. George W. Brackenridge deeded 503 acres to the university in 1910 in the hope that one day it would serve as the main campus for the growing institution. Instead, the university expanded closer to its original campus but continued to maintain what came to be called the Brackenridge Tract to serve the educational purposes of the university, as stipulated in the deed. Over the years, sections of the tract have been leased, sold, and developed into student housing and research facilities. In 2006, in response to legislative pressures, the Board of Regents formed a Task Force to consider anew the best and highest uses of the remaining Brackenridge tract acreage. The Task Force, chaired by Larry E. Temple, reported back to the Regents in October 2007. The Task Force made a number of recommendations, including that the use of 74 acres for university student housing did not meet the standard of “best and highest use” of the land. The Task Force report goes on to ask:

Is it strategically important to the University to offer graduate student and family housing assistance? If so, should the University provide such housing assistance through financial assistance or actual housing? If providing actual housing serves the University’s mission, that housing can and should be relocated to an appropriate site. The Task Force recognizes that there will be costs associated with relocation of the housing and TAB recommends that the master planning process include the relocation costs in its analysis (Task Force, 2007, p. 33).

As recommended by the Task Force, the Regents hired a highly regarded master planning firm, Cooper, Robertson, which has worked in a similar capacity for Harvard, Yale, Johns Hopkins, and MIT. The Cooper team has begun a series of meetings with stakeholders. The stakeholders include residents of University Apartments, the biological field labs, representatives from surrounding neighborhoods, Lion’s Municipal Golf Course, West Austin Youth Association (WAYA), the City of Austin, the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA), which leases land for its headquarters complex, and businesses that also operate on leased property.

For residents of University Apartments, there is concern for the possible loss of their individual housing units, but also the loss of a vibrant neighborhood. Once restricted to married students, the apartments are now open to students at all levels. The students themselves have paid for University Apartments which is fully funded through its own rental income. To be eligible to live in the apartments, a student must have a dependent (spouse or child), or a single student can share a unit with a roommate, who must also be a student. While the units are modest and lack such amenities as dishwashers, demand for these affordable units is high. Currently, there are as many students on the waiting list as there are apartments. About half of applicants on the wait list are single students, an indication of unmet housing needs in Austin’s booming real estate market.

As many as 70% of residents are international graduate students, many with spouses and children who benefit from the unique set of support services that have developed to serve this diverse community. For example, Mathews Elementary, the primary school serving children living in University Apartments, has assembled staff and programs to serve the community. Mathews offers bilingual programs in Spanish, Chinese, and Korean. It has Pre‐K and literacy programs that help students succeed in school. Its volunteer‐led Prime Time English Conversation classes provide practice in English conversation to parents and community members. The school’s diversity is celebrated annually in an International Day Parade of Nations featuring students showcasing their country of origin or ethnic background.

The apartments can be a significant tool in recruiting graduate and international students. Some academic departments and colleges actively publicize University Apartments in their recruiting programs. For international students, who have limited opportunities for employment in this country, the apartments’ affordability can be a deciding factor in choosing to come to UT.

In addition to providing a community of peers, the apartments are located in a good neighborhood appropriate for raising children. Neighborhoods closer to the university, where many single undergraduate students live, are not compatible with family needs. The proximity of University Apartments to shopping, schools, parks, and other amenities, as well as good bus services and hike and bike trails, makes it possible to live and raise a family without the expense of a car. The apartments are located in park‐like surroundings that support many large trees and open, green expanses. Occupying environmentally sensitive space on the Colorado River, University Apartments residents and managers have been good stewards of the land and support activities that leave a light footprint. For example, many students take advantage of university shuttle buses to get to campus. Similarly dense housing that was not restricted to students would be certain to generate significantly more traffic along the already congested corridors of

Lake Austin Boulevard, Cesar Chavez, and West 5th and 6th Streets. As Austin, like other cities, promotes denser housing that is walking distance to amenities and where people are likely to take public transportation or ride bicycles, residents of University Apartments are already living the New Urbanism lifestyle.

Through its representatives on the Tenant Advisory Board (TAB), student residents of University Apartments are fully engaged in monitoring and participating in the ongoing planning for the Brackenridge Tract. They are coordinating and communicating with other stakeholders to ensure they are aware and prepared. Many residents recognize they occupy highly desirable property. They recognize that the Regents have a fiduciary responsibility to consider the bigger picture and long-term interests of the university in making their decisions about the tract. But residents also realize that this place is more than a collection of modest multi‐unit housing buildings. Today’s residents are only the most recent cohort to have found that their affordable housing was part of a treasured community. Preserving this community, and the services that support it, takes on new urgency as the master planning process works toward its 2009 delivery date, which, coincidentally, is when the lease is up for the land occupied by Colorado Apartments.

References

Board of Regents, University of Texas System website (2008). Brackenridge Tract. Retrieved June 7, 2008 from http://www.utsystem.edu/BOR/bracktract.htm.

Collier, Kiah (2008).

Future of Brackenridge Tract still murky after UT Regents’ meeting. The

Daily Texan, December 12, 2007.

Haurwitz, Ralph, K. M. (2008). UT regents sign $5.1 million Brackenridge contract Company to handle planning for tract also made plans for Harvard and Yale.

Austin American‐Statesman, May 15, 2008.

Mathews Elementary School (2008). Campus Facts, Accomplishments 2007‐2008. Retrieved June 8, 2008 from http://www.austinisd.org/schools/website.phtml?id=081.

Real Estate Office, University of Texas System website (2008).

Update on RFQ for Master Planning Services for the Brackenridge Tract. Retrieved June 7, 2008 from http://www.utsystem.edu/reo/homepage.html.

Task Force, University of Texas System website (2007). Brackenridge Tract Task Force Report. Retrieved June 8, 2008 from http://www.utsystem.edu/BOR/files/bracktract/report.pdf.

University Apartments website. Eligibility & Rates. Retrieved on June 8, 2008 from

http://www.utexas.edu/student/housing/index.php?site=0&scode=2&id=639&is_main

=1.

University Apartments and the Future of the Brackenridge Tract_pdf

Coalition of Stakeholders in the Brackenridge Tract_pdf

Posted in Brackenridge Tract | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

 
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