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Y. housing bad for Provo?

Old homes in area may end up as student rentals

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PROVO — What's good for Brigham Young University students may not be good for Provo.

That's what some city leaders say about a decision by BYU to limit to a two-mile radius from campus the apartments where the university will allow single students under 25 to live.

"Generally, I think it is a good thing," Provo City Councilman Dave Knecht told the Deseret Morning News. "It will be helpful for not just BYU but for Provo as we try to provide students with legal and safe housing."

But it has caused some headaches.

Recent attempts by city officials to increase the number of people living in homes they own in an area south of campus may be jeopardized by BYU's decision, he said.

With a struggling-to-revitalize neighborhood falling in the middle of BYU's new housing boundaries, Knecht worries that enterprising landlords will turn old family homes into student rentals — despite the glut of available student housing.

According to BYU housing manager Garry Briggs, there are 16,000 students to fill the 23,000 "BYU-approved" off-campus rental spaces available within the new boundaries.

But that hasn't stopped some landlords from buying homes — most of which are in an area that city officials have deemed off-limits for apartment complexes — in anticipation of the change, which will take effect in April 2007.

"Really, any viable neighborhood that lies within BYU's boundary is endangered unless we do something about it," Knecht said. "We would really like to work with BYU to make some modifications to (the rule)."

Briggs said that BYU made the best decision for its students to prevent non-BYU students from threatening their "moral and spiritual living environment."

Many students from Utah Valley State College, an Orem public college, rent apartments in BYU-approved complexes.

"We were experiencing a lot of difficulties maintaining the residential living standards in some complexes that were a distance away from the school," Briggs said. "The problems were created by non-BYU students but affecting the BYU student experience. That made us look back at what we are doing and rethink things."

The private university, owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, requires single students under 25 to living in housing visited and approved by school officials.

In order to gain the school's approval to house BYU students, landlords must agree to enforce the school's Honor Code — a list of rules that prohibits premarital sex, the use of alcohol and tobacco, and having members of the opposite sex in student bedrooms.

According to Briggs, the farther you get away from campus, the more likely it is that non-BYU students will live there.

And while singles who don't attend BYU must also agree to obey the Honor Code in order to live in BYU-approved housing, their dedication to its standards is sometimes weaker because they don't risk expulsion if they don't follow the rules.

"I don't really think UVSC students find BYU rules to be binding. They play along so that they can live by their friends, but they don't really care about obeying the small stuff," said student Amy Larsen.

Knecht acknowledges the forethought that went into BYU's decision and its efforts to maintain a high living standard for its students.

He also thinks the decision will help Provo better plan the city's future since student housing will remain concentrated within the same radius indefinitely.

But all those positives haven't kept Knecht from worrying about a few negatives.

"Would we have liked to have been consulted when BYU did this? That would have been nice," Knecht said. "Because it's kind of going cross-ways with what we're trying to accomplish."


E-mail: lwarner@desnews.com