This page outlines the latest updates to College Houses’ COVID-19 response. College Houses has taken many steps to respond to the coronavirus, but this page will focus on key information needed by members who have a fall semester lease, and by people considering applying for our housing.

If, after reading this page, you have further questions or a unique situation that you would like to discuss in more detail, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Please see our contact page and find the most appropriate contact for your question.

We appreciate your patience and understanding as we navigate this unprecedented situation. This year will continue to be a challenge for everyone, but we are confident that we can overcome these hurdles by remaining diligent and working together cooperatively. It is in tough times like these where the co-op spirit can truly shine.

Leasing Office Availability

Our office will be closed to members until further notice (this includes move-in day) but our staff will be available at the office and virtually. Our staff will do everything possible to provide the same level of service as previous years. All of our services, such as accepting payments, replacing keys, resolving issues, providing parking passes, will be done in a socially distant manner.

COVID-19 and Co-op Living

College Houses has consistently made operational changes in order to keep our living environment healthy and safe, and compliant with COVID-19 guidelines and best practices. However, like all housing providers, College Houses cannot prevent you from becoming exposed to, contracting, or spreading COVID-19.

Here are a few risk factors you should be aware of when choosing College Houses:

  • You will be living in close proximity with other students.
  • While College Houses have guidelines for members to keep themselves and others safe, we cannot control the behavior of members outside the houses. Statistically speaking, our membership falls in an age group that is more likely to engage in risk-taking behavior.
  • Our facilities share kitchen space, bathrooms, commons areas, and HVAC systems that make effective individual quarantine and social distancing difficult. (Most of our kitchen facilities are commercial kitchens, which means they are monitored for safety and inspected by the health department.)

How We Reduce COVID-19 Risks

Community-level Processes
College Houses has a general organizational plan that all cooperatives are expected to follow. However, you will be responsible for reviewing, discussing, modifying, agreeing to, and monitoring your house-level COVID-19 policies and procedures that have been in place over the summer. This may include but is not limited to: guest and visitation policy, protocol for entering/returning to the house, mask requirements, food service, house cleaning & sanitation protocols, and more. Some of the policies you and your housemates develop may be more restrictive than public health guidelines or organizational guidelines, and you will still be expected to follow those protocols. This is part of the cooperative experience – “we before me!”

Organizational Plan (Includes individual communities’ house action plans)

Organization Risk Assessment Chart (A reference guide for how our operations change based on the City of Austin’s 5-stage guidelines)

College Houses is committed to the following actions to support sanitation efforts this fall semester.

  • All mattresses will be cleaned and sanitized prior to the fall move-ins.
  • College Houses will continue to support house officers in ensuring all necessary PPE and sanitizing products are available.
  • All Kitchen Managers and cooks will be required to take an on-line food safety course.
  • Member rooms will be cleaned and sanitized by our summer cleaning crew.
  • We will continue to maintain and provide up-to-date information on the virus via email, house officers, and other communication channels.
  • The College Houses Board of Directors and staff will continue to monitor the changing situation and adjust operations as necessary.

Expectations for Members & House Communities

While College Houses will support house communities by ensuring appropriate supplies and information is available, members have a responsibility to maintain and protect their living environment. This includes:

  • Maintaining diligent labor schedules that include frequent cleaning of high-touch areas
  • Working with your community to develop standard house protocols
  • Developing a house level guest policy
  • Developing processes for communication/notification if a member becomes ill. Staff must be notified immediately if a member tests positive for COVID-19.
  • Maintaining clean and sanitary houses. For example, there will be no free piles right now. This reduces possible avenues of transmission and prevents clutter, which ensures areas and can be appropriately sanitized.

Monitoring and Consequences

While we expect serious violations to be rare, our policies do allow for enforcement of our health and safety guidelines. College Houses categorizes COVID-19 guideline violations as violations of our Harassment Policy.

By agreeing to be a part of the College Houses community, you are agreeing to follow COVID-19 guidelines and monitor your own behavior for safety. Additionally, it is the responsibility of members to hold one another accountable if guidelines aren’t being followed.

If you observe people not following guidelines, the first step should be to reminder them in the moment. If a gentle reminder doesn’t correct the situation, an incident report can be submitted to the leasing office by email or mail slot drop off.

If an incident report is submitted and substantiated:

  • First Offense: House officer(s) or staff will make contact with the member to talk through the violation.
  • Second Offense: An eviction notice will be issued to the offending member, as they are putting the community in imminent physical harm.

Once again, if you have further questions or a unique situation that you would like to discuss in more detail, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Please see our contact page and find the most appropriate contact for your question. Thank you!