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Ultimate Guide to SMART Housing at UT Austin (Updated for 2024)

By Cristina

There’s no denying that Austin can be an amazing place to live. As the Live Music Capital of the World, Austinites will tell you there’s never a dull moment in the city. However, as the fastest-growing major metropolitan city in the U.S., Austin can also be one of the most expensive spots to live, especially for a college student.

That’s why the City of Austin developed the SMART housing program to help make housing more affordable for those who qualify. This is great news, especially in West Campus where finding an apartment can be overwhelming and pricey.

At Rambler, we want to help you understand all of your housing options, which is why we’ve created this guide to make SMART housing simple.

In this article, we answer all of your questions about SMART housing, including:

@rambleratx The Ultimate Guide to SMART Housing: Pt. 1! #ut #utaustin #utaustintx #apartment #SMARThousing #hookem #college #ut25 #ut26 ♬ original sound – Rambler

The Ultimate Guide to SMART Housing for Students at UT Austin

What is SMART housing?

The City of Austin created the Safe, Mixed-Income, Accessible, Reasonably Priced, Transit-Oriented (SMART) housing program to help make rent costs more affordable. That name is a bit of a mouthful, which is why you’ll hear it more commonly referred to as SMART housing.

SMART housing was designed to help students who are receiving need-based financial aid or are working to independently pay for college and living costs. If you qualify, some apartments offer a lower rent price in certain rooms.

This price can range from the $700s to just over $1200 depending on the complex and the apartment itself.

Read Next: How Much Does it Cost to Live Near the University of Texas at Austin?

A student's cowboy boots and jeans dangle off a stone ledge on the UT Austin campus | SMART Housing Austin

How do I qualify for SMART housing?

There are two ways you can qualify for SMART housing:

  1. Need-Based Financial Aid
  2. Low-to-moderate Income Requirement

The first way to qualify for SMART housing is if you receive any need-based financial aid. This form of qualification is fairly simple; if you check your UT Direct CASH page, you can view a list of any financial aid that you have received. If any of the aid on your personal list matches one that appears on the approved need-based financial aid list, regardless of the amount, you qualify!

The second way to qualify for SMART housing is if you fall within the low-to-moderate income bracket. In most cases, this means if you demonstrate that the income of the person paying for your apartment is between 50% and 80% of the Austin area’s median income, you will qualify for SMART housing.

Which apartments offer SMART housing in West Campus?

Usually, an apartment complex selects certain floor plans to offer SMART housing in. This means that if you qualify for SMART housing and would like to receive the discounted pricing, you will need to choose one of the designated floor plans in which SMART housing is available. 

A UT student sits outside a JuiceLand in Austin scrolling through his phone | What is SMART Housing?

Around West Campus, each property can decide whether their SMART housing prices will be by the unit or by the bed

If you receive SMART housing by the unit, it means that the discounted price will apply to the entire unit that you are leasing. SMART housing by the unit generally applies to studio or one-bedroom apartments, but this may vary by complex.

On the other hand, SMART housing by the bed means that the price you receive only applies to your individual bedroom within the unit.

Can I still live with my friends if they don’t qualify for SMART housing?

In many cases, yes!

Apartments that offer SMART housing by the bed can usually mix SMART housing and non-SMART housing bed spaces. For example, if you choose a four-bedroom that offers SMART housing and you qualify but your roommates do not, you will pay the SMART housing rate while your three roommates pay the market rate.

When is SMART housing available?

The City of Austin typically sends out SMART housing rates each July.

Every apartment complex that offers SMART housing has a limited number of spots that can receive a discounted rate. Because SMART pricing is limited, it can be beneficial to jumpstart your housing search timeline and make a decision sooner rather than later.

Read Next: When to Start Looking for Housing as a UT Austin Student

How do I lease a SMART housing room?

Once you’ve explored your options and found the perfect apartment for your needs, you’re ready to start the leasing process. Securing your spot in a SMART housing unit can look a little different than signing a normal lease.

The first step is determining if you qualify by receiving need-based financial aid or by meeting the low-to-moderate income requirement.

Next, you will demonstrate that you qualify by providing your leasing consultant with supporting documentation. If you qualify through financial aid, a screenshot of your UT Direct CASH page is generally sufficient. If you qualify through income, you have a few options regarding which documentation to submit:

  • W2
  • 1040
  • A letter from an employer
  • Three pay stubs

Finally, once your documents are submitted and verified, your SMART housing lease will be generated, and you’re ready to sign!

Looking for SMART housing? Check out Rambler’s SMART housing unit, The Marfa.

We hoped that this article helped you understand SMART housing around UT Austin. If you have any further questions or you’re interested in SMART housing at Rambler, contact our leasing team!

Originally published 6/8/2022. Last updated 12/4/2023.


Cristina is the Lease Up Specialist for Rambler. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland.

December 04, 2023

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