Texas Universities, Student Housing Properties Face Impact of Unprecedented Winter Storms

Texas — Winter storms spread across the U.S. last week, bringing ice and snow to states not typically synonymous with below freezing temperatures. One such state was Texas, where brutal winter storms caused millions to lose power and pipes to burst at a level that led to water disruptions for roughly half the state’s population, according to reports by CNN.

The temperature in Dallas last week dipped to 5 degrees Fahrenheit — the coldest temperature the city had seen since 1989— while Austin and San Antonio both had single-digit temperatures for the first time in more than 30 years, according to reports by CNN.

These winter storms brought challenges for student housing properties and universities across the state. At Texas A&M, the university offered warming centers, stocked food provisions and provided a food pantry and meals for utility workers. A&M students worked with the Red Cross to collect hundreds of bags of food and clothes to help those in need during the difficult winter weather. 

CA Student Living saw a total of five pipes burst across its properties in Texas, according to Ryan Hand, vice president of business development and client services for the Chicago-based company. ”Some of our exterior lines froze, and when that happened, they dumped large amounts of water,” he says. “Luckily for us most of this water just dumped into the parking garage at one of our assets and only a small amount soaked into the units.”

“At our other property, we were not quite as fortunate and had a line rupture above a fifth floor unit that caused heavy damage to several surrounding units,” says Hand. “The site team worked to insure that these affected residents found alternative housing. Finding hotels last week was like finding the needle in the hay stack. However, we were able to secure a rate with a Hilton for $64 per-night — surprisingly low all things considered.”

Update: 3/3

Additional owners and operators of student housing properties have weighed in on their experience during the Texas winter storms.

“We own and operate five student housing properties in Texas between Huntsville, College Station, San Marcos and San Antonio,” says Aryne Bailey, portfolio director at The Dinerstein Cos. “All of our sites were affected in one way or another by the unprecedented winter freeze. Conditions differed between properties, but mainly we saw loss of power and domestic water in addition to pipe damage due to the freezing temperatures.”

“Each city had its own stipulations when it came to boiling water, which was communicated to all of our residents as updates were available,” continues Bailey. “Additionally our sites were affected by the rolling outages that were happening throughout Texas. While these issues definitely affected our day to day operations, it was incredible to see the resiliency of not our employees but also our residents. Our team members were so innovative in coming up with ways that we could continue to provide the same customer experience that our residents have grown accustomed too.”

A similar experience occurred at Asset Living’s communities in Texas. “We experienced what most did, in general, with losing power, water, and burst pipes, but the way our team handled it is what stood out the most,” says Stacey Lecocke, executive vice president  of Asset Living. “We found our teams were well-equipped with how to respond and the resources, procedures, and protocol that needed to be appointed. Times like this are never welcome, but it’s how we react and engage in a crisis is where the true test and results lie. We are proud of the resilience seen in our onsite/front line leaders and their overall commitment to the well-being of their residents.”