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“There goes the neighborhood”:
The development of private student housing in Carrollton

The problem is not the students: Carrollton residents themselves have always studied and taught at the universities.

It’s that the universities lack the initiative to house their undergraduates on campus. And bad landlords are common in the neighborhood.

Enter the private student housing developers—who buy properties near campus, evict the long-term tenants, and convert the neighborhood’s historic houses into dorm-like residences with “premium services”—marketing the apartments to college students at an enormous profit.

Most of these developers (like Amicus and Preston Tedesco) will camelback a house, gut the historic interior, and create as many bedrooms as possible. The rent per unit in these “doubles to dormitories” (D2Ds) is about $5,000/month—normally for four bedrooms, but often for five.

But other developers (like the Heidenbergs) just forego the renovations, renting a large single-family house with perhaps seven bedrooms at $800–900 per tenant, for a total of about $6,000/month. So the historic character of the building is (incidentally) preserved—and the owner is spared the expense of renovation. (Heidenberg Group Rental Properties removed the rental figures from their website in the summer of 2021.)

Yet the high density violates zoning law, because the definition of “family” in the city’s Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance (CZO, Art. 26.6) allows for only four unrelated persons per unit. This is one of the the most frequent zoning violations for private student housing. Other common violations include paving over front and side yards, and parking in front yards.

Reporting these and other violations to Safety and Permits is potentially an important defense against overdevelopment in our neighborhoods.

We are also concerned with issues of preservation in the partial-control Carrollton Historic District, and support the adoption of full-control districting. See more information about full- versus partial-control districting.

About Town of Carrollton Watch

Town of Carrollton Watch monitors and documents on this site the current development trends in the historic Carrollton neighborhood, including:

  • the purchase and conversion of local historic houses to private student housing
  • the displacement (and eviction) of long-term residents
  • the effects of increasing density
  • the destruction of the architectural integrity of the neighborhood
  • the neighborhood’s response to development (BZA appeals, CPC meetings, and other efforts), and
  • the ongoing search for a policy solution to the problem of development in Carrollton.

A note about the University Area Off-Street Parking Overlay

Overdevelopment was temporarily addressed by the enactment on March 5, 2020, of the University Area Interim Zoning District (IZD). (An IZD is considered an emergency measure only.)

On March 25, 2021, the City Council approved Councilman Joe Giarrusso’s Motion M 21-102, sending the proposed University Area Off-Street Parking Overlay to the City Planning Commission for study. The Overlay greatly expands the territory of the University Area IZD, extending it to the boundaries the shown on this map, and contains exemptions (carve-outs) for owner-occupants and affordable housing.

On July 13, the CPC voted to deny a recommendation of the Overlay in its final staff report, which was due at the City Council by July 24. On October 7, the Overlay passed in the City Council. It was enacted in the City Council on November 18, 2021.

The University Area Off-Street Parking Overlay has been codified as CZO Article 18.30. The University Area IZD, enacted on March 5, 2020, terminated with the enactment of the Overlay.

Though the Overlay is called the “permanent version of the IZD,” in fact it is very different. Whereas the University Area IZD required an off-street parking space for any increase in bedrooms, the Overlay requires off-street parking only for new bedrooms in excess of four per unit.

Effectively, then, the Overlay merely reinforces the CZO’s definition of “family” (CZO Article 26.6) as four unrelated persons or fewer, which has heretofore proved unenforceable—and is perhaps unconstitutional. It remains to be seen whether the University Area Overlay will put us back at square one with respect to density and hyperdevelopment.

Quick site map

News — announcements of developer purchases and subdivisions, City hearings, calls for public comment, media reports, events, and other news.

Report — Find out how to report a violation.

Report log — a partial list of the violations we’ve reported to the City; and other actions.

Donations — information on how to make a donation to Town of Carrollton Watch, a non-profit, unaffiliated organization that receives no corporate contributions.

Properties — For information on individual houses under development as private student dormitories in Carrollton and surrounding neighborhoods, see:

Other sites on development in Carrollton

Who we are

Town of Carrollton Watch, LLC, is a non-profit, independent, unaffiliated watchdog organization managed by Carrollton native S. P. Johnson—in consultation with individual neighbors, community groups, professionals and policymakers.

News and value-added data on this site are available to all.

Donations are appreciated.

Please write us at contact@townofcarrolltonwatch.org with neighborhood news, zoning violations, questions and comments.

For more news than you’ll find on this site, ask to be included on our mailing list; and visit us on Facebook @TownofCarrolltonWatch.

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Featured photos: William Thompson House, 7219 Burthe Street; the Carrollton Courthouse under construction