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Married with housing

Couples are finding that university housing is a pretty good deal

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At Brigham Young University, a rumor has been circulating — for some time — that people put their names on the married student housing waiting list before they are even engaged or dating somebody. The singles hope that by the time they have found someone to settle down with, they'll have gotten into a new Wyview Park apartment or an old Wymount Terrace place. If they haven't met that special person, they just take themselves off the list.

"Some people do that," said Jeanette Ray in the BYU Housing department, "but it's not a majority.

"There are between 1,900 and 2,200 names on the waiting list, and probably about 100 of those aren't married," Ray added.

According to Gary Briggs, manager of BYU's student family housing, it's always been this way — at least since he's been working with the university for the past decade. He does, however, admit to seeing a bit of a jump in demand.

"Prior to the announcement of, or during the announcement of the construction of our new Wyview Park, the waiting list jumped from around 1,000 to 1,400 names to around 2,000."

It's simple to understand.

With rising rent rates and high costs of gas and other utilities, living in university housing makes a lot of sense. Schools offer housing for students at much lower prices and include most utilities, cable, phone and a plethora of other amenities in the rent.

According to a recent Equimark Properties report, rent for a one bedroom/one bathroom apartment in Salt Lake County can run between $542 and $632, excluding amenities.

"We're the cheapest game in town," said Rebecca Dowdell of the University of Utah's married student quarters.

Rent in the University of Utah's student apartments ranges from $340 a month for a one- or two-bedroom apartment in the South Court of the University Village to a $767-per-month townhouse in Medical Plaza by the University Hospital. These rates include all utilities except the telephone. In the U.'s new Shoreline Ridge apartments in Research Park/Fort Douglas, married students and students with families pay $645 to $845 a month for two or three bedrooms with laundry hook-ups, full kitchens and Ethernet connections. The rent includes everything but electricity.

Dowdell, who has worked with the U.'s student housing for the past six years, said the student village, which sits at 1945 E. Sunnyside Ave. has had a waiting list since the late 1980s. "There was a time during the mid- to late '80s when there were actually empty apartments," Dowdell said. And, according to Dowdell, that was when faculty and staff could rent the small quarters. But no longer.

The demand for student housing puts students at the top of the list.

"More (students) need married student housing than there is married student housing," said Dowdell. Despite the fact that the U.'s married student housing now includes the Medical Tower Plaza and the new Research Park/Fort Douglas quarters — which will house 2002 Olympians — it has 97 percent occupancy 100 percent of the time.

"We could build 200 more units, and they would be filled immediately," added Dowdell. But she said it would cost the university an astronomical amount of money to build more accommodations than it already has.

"Out-of-town students show up with their U-Hauls and ask for apartments, and we have to say 'wait six months,' " said Dowdell. "People just don't understand how truly popular it is."

At Logan's Utah State University, the popularity of campus housing surged in just the past year.

Before May 2000, when housing coordinator Janice Miller began working in Utah State's married student housing department, a waiting list was unheard of. "It's never been like this," said Miller. "In the past, there were usually 20 or 30 apartments vacant, but for some reason, campus housing is the way to go."

In order to take advantage of university housing, married students must take between six to 10 credit hours per semester, depending on the school. And at the U. and BYU, students who have taken classes fall and winter semesters may live in the housing during the summer without enrolling.

Becky Evans and her husband, Justin, have been living in USU's Aggie Village since they were first married nearly two years ago. They occupy a two-bedroom apartment in one of 11 Family Unit triads, a three-building apartment complex with a gated central yard where children of student couples can play away from the cars.

Along with the apartments of the West Stadium Village and the up-scale Aggie Village Townhouses, the Aggie Village is one of the three areas Utah State provides for its married student population.

"We lucked out," said Evans of her and her husband's experience finding a spot in the complex. "There was one available when we wanted to move in."

Evans said it was her husband's idea to live in the village. "He brought it up."

USU includes a computer lab fee in the rent as well as water, sewer, trash and phone, and Evans said that was why her husband wanted the couple to live in the student housing. "He asked me what it would take for me to live there, since he's a computer science major and the computers on campus have a direct line."

Because Evans had already been a resident assistant in the single student apartments in Aggie Village, she said it wouldn't take much for her to move into married student housing.

"It was nice because we didn't have to shop around; plus it's convenient."

Before Christmas, the Evans' car broke down. "We hoped it would last until my husband graduated from college in May, but it didn't hold out," Becky Evans said. Fortunately, the Evans' apartment is in close proximity to both work and class. "It's about 10 minutes away from campus," she said, "and I work across the street."

On days when the couple needs groceries, they catch the Logan city bus, which stops right in front of their apartment.

"It's not the cheapest," Evans said of the rent she and her spouse pay. "But it's nice to have all the bills together. Farther out of town, there are places that are cheaper, but the utilities are more."

The Evans family enjoys living in a clean, well-kept apartment complex, where things can be fixed within 24 hours. But the nicest perk is the support group, the strong sense of community, where, according to Evans, her friends actually remember the old times, when they were small and their parents lived in the village.

"It's fun to be around young married families who aren't already old, perfect couples who have been married for 10 years."

E-MAIL: lu@desnews.com