City council to consider changes to College Station’s housing options this month

By Michael Ostrowski, Director of Planning & Development

The development pattern today in College Station reflects the city’s zoning controls. Residential and commercial land uses are regulated through zoning districts that permit defined uses in certain zones.

The locations of these zoning districts and the uses allowed in them, combined with the growing housing needs of a diverse mix of people, have created conflicts the city plans to address through two significant updates to its Unified Development Ordinance (UDO).

Shared Housing Use

On Thursday, the College Station City Council will consider a proposed definition of Shared Housing uses. The city can then specify the zoning districts that will allow that use.

For context, staff presented options to preserve neighborhood character at city council workshops in 2021 and 2022. After those discussions, the council directed staff to address the increasing number of residential properties redeveloping into “stealth dorms” or “Ag Shacks” in existing neighborhoods that are not usually compatible with other single-family residential uses.

The structures are typically designed to contain more than four bedrooms, have a similar bedroom-to-bathroom ratio, and have a large parking area with more than four spaces, among other characteristics. They are often designed to exceed occupancy levels of more than one family – in violation of the city’s definition of family – and the “no more than four unrelated persons” provision.

To regulate those uses, city staff must first define the use in the UDO. Historically, the “stealth dorms” have been interpreted as single-family dwellings, limiting the city’s ability to regulate where they can be located. The lack of a separate definition has allowed these types of uses in many existing single-family neighborhoods.

Once the Shared Housing use is defined, the city can regulate where those uses are appropriate, including the upcoming Middle Housing zoning district.

The council previously heard the item in September and directed staff to hold a breakfast with builders and developers to discuss the proposed Shared Housing definition further. At the Sept. 29 breakfast, staff members heard many thoughtful comments and suggestions to help clarify the definition.

Staff is proposing a modified definition of Shared Housing at this week’s council meeting that addresses some of the concerns and provides additional clarity.

For comments or questions about Shared Housing uses, contact me at or 979-764-3570.

Click to enlarge

Middle Housing Zoning District

At its Oct. 27 meeting, the council will consider the creation of a new Middle Housing zoning district. The council discussed the item in August and provided direction on changes.

College Station’s existing zoning districts have historically not allowed, by right, the ability to establish various housing types between single-family homes and denser apartment complexes. However, the proposed Middle Housing zoning district would allow a flexible mix of housing products, including smaller lot single-family homes, duplexes, townhouses, live-work units, and multiplexes.

The proposed district could help redirect development pressure out of existing single-family neighborhoods, encourage the housing types that the market demands in strategic locations, and allow and incentivize developers to create more housing choices across the community.

For comments or questions about the Middle Housing zoning district, contact Staff Planner Matthew Ellis at or 979-764-3570.

Shared Housing uses and Middle Housing zoning will work hand in hand to address the community’s needs and priorities. The Middle Housing district will provide an appropriate place for Shared Housing uses while encouraging the flexible mix of housing options the market demands.  

<em><strong><mark style="background-color:rgba(0, 0, 0, 0)" class="has-inline-color has-medium-gray-color">About the Blogger</mark></strong></em>
About the Blogger

Michael Ostrowski has served as director of Planning and Development Services since 2020 after one year as the assistant director in San Marcos. He previously worked as a professional planner for several years in Wisconsin. A certified planner and economic developer, Ostrowski earned a bachelor’s degree in economics, political science, and public administration from Wisconsin-Stevens Point and master’s degrees in public administration and urban planning from Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

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