I lived in a medium-sized southern city for a few years after law school. I couldn't afford a house back then -- massive student debt -- so I rented.
I've lived in probably eight different rental properties (excluding dorms); this was by far the best. It was an 80-year old Tudor-style house that had been converted into a four-plex. It sat in the middle of a leafy Bouldin/Hyde Park-like neighborhood near downtown, with the park-like grounds of a small Presbyterian college across the street.
The apartment was great. It was large: two bedrooms with probably 1,000 square feet. Plaster walls. Retro bathroom, tiled with those little black and white tiles. Wood-paned windows (beautiful, but bad at keeping out the roaches who insisted on dropping by every evening.)
Parking? There was none. Well, there was a gravel area in the back, but we usually just parked out front on the street.
A similar four-plex sat around the corner. But we were flanked on the left and rear by single-family homes. In fact, virtually all of the housing in the area was single family. And I don't think they were one bit the worse for having our four-plex as a neighbor. During my four years there, we never had a rowdy tenant, or a drug dealer, or fraternity keg party or whatever else people here worry over. Mainly young professionals, just starting their careers. Our landlord maintained his property because he wanted to keep us as tenants.
This kind of housing, unfortunately, has been zoned out of most of inner Austin. (For example, only 10% or so of Zilker's residential area is zoned for four-plexes or other multi-family.)
Some people associate four-plexes with a certain seediness. I don't think that's fair, though. Very few four-plexes are built anymore. The existing stock generally is old and deteriorating, certainly compared to newer rental property.
Others object because four-plexes attract students. But we end up with four-plexes or five- or six-plexes anyway. They're called "McDorms," large single-family homes with space for five or six students.
I'm not sure why this college town is so rabidly determined to restrict student housing. By and large, the NGs want students to stay in their designated ghettos. Ironically, McDorms are probably worse for neighborhoods than four-plexes. The McDorm's cohabitants are more likely to be friends or at least acquaintances. I don't have any scientific evidence to back me up, but I bet your chances of having a loud party are pretty good when you start with six frat brothers sharing a big house. The four-plex's tenants don't even have to like each other, much less know each other.
Whatever the objections to four-plexes, they're not good enough in my opinion. Austin needs a lot more of these.