In 2004, Austin adopted the University Neighborhood Overlay, committing itself to the radical neoliberal principle that the market should be allowed to supply dense student housing in neighborhoods with intense demand for dense student housing. The UNO wasn't enacted solely out of concern for student welfare. It was partly an exercise in enlightened self-interest by homeowners in the adjoining neighborhoods, who had recently realized that UT students do not de-materialize when they can't find housing in West Campus.
The UNO triggered a building boom in the West Campus area. The initial Census figures confirmed, not surprisingly, that the area added a lot of people and not just a lot of apartments. And although I've heard some complain that the new developments in West Campus are too expensive for students, the Census demographic data confirm that, indeed, these new apartments are being occupied by college kids, or at least college-age kids. Census tract 6.03 (West Campus between MLK and 24th Street) saw its population of 18-24 year olds rise from 4,367 in 2000 to 7,065 in 2010. Census tract 6.04 (West Campus north of 24th Street) saw its population of 18-24 year olds rise from 4,272 to 5,816. Combined, these two tracts housed more than 4,200 more 18-24 year olds in 2010 than 2000, an increase of around 50%.
Interestingly, both tracts actually added more 18-24 year olds than they added in total. As a result, this age group comprises an even larger share of the population today than in 2000: in 2010, 18-24 year olds made up 90.6% of the population of Tract 6.03, up from from 82.8% in 2000. The increase was almost identical for Tract 6.04, an increase from 82.1% to 89,5%. The most reasonable interpretation is that, given a free(r) hand, developers tore down older housing stock that appealed to non-students and replaced it with housing stock that appealed to students.
Where would these students have lived? I've long suspected that the new housing was drawing students who otherwise would have lived in the giant apartment complexes in the East Riverside-Montopolis area of 78741. I speculated that the surge of Hispanics and children into 78741 was mirrored by an exodus of students. The recently-released demographic data, again, confirm this. The Census tracts that roughly comprise the area bordered by Parker Lane, East Riverside, Oltorf and Montopolis (23.13, 23.14, 23.15 and 23.16) all saw a sharp drop in college-age residents:
On this evidence, the UNO was a smashing success, at least for students, and that's before considering intangibles such as the vitality that the new development has injected into the streetscape. I suspect that the development in the UNO did indeed relieve the "pressure" on the surrounding neighborhoods but that's a harder counterfactual to specify and I'm not sure that the homeowners in the neighborhoods would agree regardless the evidence.