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Rental owners fear effect of BYU-housing plan

But many in Provo hope it will alleviate traffic, parking woes

PROVO — Like any other single mother, Cherie Page has worries — worries about how to put food on the table and how to pay for two of her children to attend college.

Fortunately, Page has a steady source of income as a landlord who owns 10 units south of Brigham Young University.

Page is worried, however, that a proposal to build a 40-acre student village south of campus will negatively affect her livelihood. Some city officials have suggested that the project, called South Campus Area Master Plan, will only work if students can't find affordable housing outside the village boundaries.

Page thinks the city may limit the number of people she can rent to by downzoning property outside the SCAMP area. All of the property Page owns or manages falls outside the SCAMP boundaries.

"I didn't think SCAMP was such a bad idea until I realized the idea was to squeeze students out of the surrounding neighborhoods," Page said. "I think that's morally wrong to segregate people into one neighborhood."

Many longtime residents of downtown Provo are in favor of SCAMP, saying it will alleviate parking and traffic problems in the neighborhood.

Neighborhood activist Bonnie Callis says old homes in the neighborhood, often called pioneer homes, will continue to to be converted into multi-unit apartments unless the city does something to encourage homeownership. In the Joaquin area, only 7 percent of the homes are occupied by the owners. It is the most densely populated neighborhood in the city.

In supporting SCAMP, Page says Callis and others are in the minority. She thinks most property owners in the area are opposed to SCAMP or downzoning the neighborhood.

Page and more than 100 other property owners met for the first time Wednesday as the Joaquin Neighborhood Fairness Committee. Some drove from as far away as Idaho.

"We're fighting for our livelihood," said Bart Howell, who organized the committee. "The only way Provo City can make SCAMP work is to destroy the Joaquin housing market."

Howell said his group will do what the neighborhood committee set up by the city has failed to do: inform residents of issues that will impact them.

The group will also fight downzoning of the neighborhood because they fear it will decrease property values.

"A minority of property owners have created an inaccurate perception that landlords don't do a good job keeping up their units," Howell said. "I don't think this is the case. We're in a very competitive market; landlords who do not maintain their units have vacancies."

In the past four years, Page says, she has spent about $40,000 on improvement projects at her rental units. It has been several years since Howell or Page had a vacancy during the fall or winter semester

Both recognize that some landlords allow their property to become run down. Like those in favor of the SCAMP proposal, Howell wants increased enforcement of city zoning laws.

Callis said she has done her part to inform the neighborhood of issues that impact them; for Wednesday's meeting she handed out 1,000 fliers.

"A lot of the landlords don't realize that if the area isn't downzoned most of the homes will be bulldozed and converted into high-density apartments," Callis said.

The SCAMP proposal should come before the City Council in the next two months. Most council members support Callis in her desire to increase homeownership in central Provo. The council successfully lobbied this year to put more federal money into downtown revitalization projects.