Legal representatives of Brigham Young University met with condominium owners Wednesday to explain new standards condominiums must meet before becoming approved housing for students.
Eugene Bramhall, BYU general counsel, and David Thomas, BYU associate general counsel, took questions from the audience for two hours in BYU's Varsity Theater about the revision in the university's off-campus housing policy. Those attending shot out questions rapidly and often acted unhappy with the answers they received."There were some strong feelings expressed, and it's clear that we have some distance to cover with the property owners," said Brent Harker, BYU public communications director, immediately following the meeting. The new policy is scheduled to become effective Sept. 1.
The university, owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, requires landlords to meet BYU standards in order to have their properties designated as approved BYU off-campus housing.
According to a letter dated May 5 and addressed to "all condominium owners in the BYU housing program," BYU's off-campus housing program has never fully integrated all of the condominiums in the Provo/Orem housing market into the usual off-campus housing approval process. Because only a limited number of condominiums originally sought to house students, they were given an "exempt status" allowing student occupancy "without compliance with the approval process."
The letter says the number of condominium owners seeking to become part of the off-campus housing program has "exploded." While nearly 60 percent of the condominium units housing students have received approval from the Off-Campus Housing Office, there are still some with exempt status that need to be included in the approval process.
The revised policy now says condominium owners must receive off-campus housing approval for each unit they own. In addition, the condominium complex in which the unit is located must receive approval for off-campus housing from the university.
"An approved condominium complex must designate whether it will house single male or single female students or provide an acceptable plan whereby the sexes of single students are separated by buildings or wings of buildings," the policy says.
A letter provided to the Deseret News written by R. Scott Stone, president of Brownstone Home Owners Association and vice president of Victoria Place Home Owners Association, outlines concerns with the new policy revision. The letter was addressed to BYU President Rex E. Lee.
Stone's concerns include agreements that are sometimes part of owners' loans prohibiting them from discriminating on the basis of race, sex, religion or marital status, as well as condominium associations' lack of funds to defend against potential lawsuits. He also wrote that some people have purchased condominiums for their children to live in while attending BYU. With this arrangement, the children can choose their roommates and the parents can make an investment instead of paying rent. "This type of homeowner is who this policy will hurt and affect the most," Stone wrote.
The letter from BYU to condominium owners says owners who purchased units for their own use or to house their children "will be unaffected by these changes except limitations will be placed on rental or housing of non-family members. . . ."
Units may be occupied by the owner or owner's family, but these units may not be sublet to non-family members unless they are students of the sex designated for the complex.
However, condominium owners who received exempt status before Sept. 1 "may continue to house family members with student renters of the sex opposite to the gender selection of the complex" until the family members vacate the unit or the unit is sold.
"The crux of the issue is rental," Harker said. "We're just saying if you want to rent to BYU students, we have some expectations for those students . . . and a housing policy we'd like you to abide by."
Harker said that although the university has had input from some condominium owners, Wednesday's meeting was the largest group that had met to air concerns and questions about the policy. He expects some fine tuning will be done on the policy as concerns of condominium owners are heard.
Segregation of the sexes is at the basis of the policy change and the university's entire housing policy, Harker said. "BYU is proceeding not out of malice, but out of devotion to a principle," he said.