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BYU changes policy, allows single undergraduates to live where they want next fall

By Genelle Pugmire - | Sep 23, 2021

Isaac Hale, Daily Herald

Motorists drive past a sign advertising Brigham Young University and Utah Valley University contracted housing Thursday, March 19, 2020, in Provo. (Isaac Hale, Daily Herald file photo)

For several decades, the two-mile radius encircling Brigham Young University was filled with BYU approved off-campus housing. Next fall, that will most likely change.

On Thursday, BYU announced, “significant changes to its student housing program effective fall semester 2022.”

“Beyond their first two semesters, BYU undergraduate, single students will no longer be required to live in BYU On-Campus or BYU Off-Campus Contracted Housing,” the announcement said.

This came as shock to students, stakeholders and civic departments who were not given prior warning to the change. That news could ripple out to everything from transportation to parking.

As soon as the news broke, social media platforms were loaded with comments ranging from optimistic; “it’s only taken 50 years” to pessimistic “it won’t change anything for non-students.”

Isaac Hale Daily Herald

Two separate buildings make up The Aston at University Place in Orem on Monday, Aug. 10, 2020. (Isaac Hale, Daily Herald file photo)

Most comments reflect a positive stance on the issue, saying it will help develop more competitive rents, fewer predatory attitudes and allow BYU students to be treated like adults. A few posts inferred that if they can serve the Lord at age 18 they can live like proper adults at age 20.

Former BYU student Asheli Havili Thomas posted, “Halle-freaking-lujah. The honor code means on your honor. Not to mention when it isn’t applied the same across all off campus housing, it becomes who can pay for the housing that will look the other way. This also will hopefully equal the playing field, making housing costs more competitive and forcing them down for students who support themselves through school. I also hope this will encourage students to band together to ask for better, more updated housing, instead of furnishings from the eighties.”

BYU has seen a fluctuation in the number of freshmen and transfer students over the years. According to Carri Jenkins, a BYU spokesperson, the school currently receives around 5,000 new freshmen each year.

“On top of this, we have transfer students and continuing freshmen who are completing their first two semesters,” Jenkins said.

Unless these students are living at home, all of them are in campus approved or contracted housing.

Mario Ruiz, Daily Herald

BYU announced that it will tear down the five remaining Deseret Towers on campus. (Mario Ruiz, Daily Herald file photo)

“It could open the door to new housing,” said Bill Peperone, the Provo Planning director. “It could have a huge impact for Provo. This will help us when we zone off-campus housing.”

Peperone mentioned things, among others, occupancy enforcement and parking which could change the dynamic of the area.

“BYU resisted rules of separation,” Peperone added. “This will help us get quality developments without separation requirements.”

Those separation requirements made it so developers had to separate, by building or by floor, the female apartments from the male apartments.

“I predict that the majority of single students will continue to live close to where they’ve always lived,” said Orem senior planner Matthew Taylor. “They want the social benefits that come from living in areas with a high percentage of like-minded and like-interested people.”

Evan Cobb, Daily Herald

Students board a Utah Valley Express bus at Utah Valley University on Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2018, in Orem. (Evan Cobb, Daily Herald file photo)

“We will likely see a minority of students move away for various reasons unique to their own preferences and situations. The total number of single students moving is to be seen, but I would be surprised if it exceeded 20%,” Taylor added. “There are about 25,000 single students attending BYU, so if we did see 20% move out, that’d be about 5000 people.”

“I think they’re going to have a tough time finding enough housing to fill that demand immediately. But over time this could happen,” Taylor said. “Some single students that want to move away may not be able to because of such incredibly low housing vacancy rates and high housing demand by others. This dynamic though may make it harder for a single-income or young couple to compete in a fierce housing market.”

Taylor added that there is an ever-increasing number of Utah Valley University students moving to university-affiliated housing near UVU. For many years, UVU students have regularly chosen to live near BYU, presumably for the social benefits.

“Orem city does have cases of students over-occupying homes in single-family neighborhoods. We may see an uptick in that trend,” Taylor said. “Without a huge increase in housing units, people are just going to be moving around to different places as they become available and they’ll likely adopt the transportation patterns of those they replaced.”

“We don’t see developers building hybrid student/non-student housing projects in Orem or any other college town, although you may see students rent non-student housing. I suspect we will continue to see student-housing-oriented projects proposed closer to UVU and more non-student-oriented housing products proposed elsewhere along amenity-rich transportation corridors and destinations, like that at University Place,” Taylor said.

Isaac Hale Daily Herald

A vehicle drives along 960 South Street as seen from a studio unit during a tour of The Green on Campus Drive next to Utah Valley University in Orem on Monday, Aug. 31, 2020. (Isaac Hale, Daily Herald file photo)

While this immediately affects the students living near BYU’s campus, it can have wide-reaching effects due to public transportation options.

“With the changes in BYU’s housing policy, students will have more opportunity to use transit to get around,” said Marie DeLaMare-Schaefer, the regional general Manager of Utah Transit Authority. “Our contract with BYU allows students to conveniently use their student ID as their transit pass to ride all UTA bus and rail services. Additionally, UVX easily connects students to campus, shopping, restaurants, entertainment and housing. We look forward to further supporting the BYU student population with transit.”

Students at UVU who may now be forced into changing their housing plans will also have the public transportation benefits to lean on.

“UVU students continue to find housing options in Orem, Vineyard, and Provo — with many of those options easily accessible to campus with the new UVU pedestrian bridge over I-15 and UTA’s UVX Rapid Transit System,” said Scott Trotter, the Senior Director of Communications at UVU. “Moving forward, UVU will continue to work with community partners to ensure that UVU’s growing student housing needs are met. At the core of our mission is student success and the relationship we have with local apartment complexes is critical to providing the best support to all of our students.”

BYU graduate students, and married students, have always been able to live wherever they choose, but this change will give that option to all undergraduate and single students after completing their first two semesters at BYU.

Additionally, BYU Off-Campus Contracted Housing will be available only to BYU students. Details about eligibility for BYU Off-Campus Contracted Housing are available on the Off-Campus Housing website.

On Monday, contracted landlords will receive information and a survey. They will be required to choose whether to stay as a contracted housing provider or not by Oct. 15. By Jan. 1, 2022, the list of BYU Off-Campus Contracted Housing providers will be posted on the BYU Off-Campus Housing website.

The Daily Herald contacted a number of apartments and management companies, most of whom were also surprised Thursday by the announcement and declined to comment as they had not had time to consider their options.

“These decisions were made in an effort to better serve our students and provide them with more options,” said Student Life Vice President Julie Franklin. “We have been hearing from and listening to our students’ concerns with BYU’s two-mile housing radius. Beginning in fall 2022, students who have completed their first two semesters at BYU will enjoy greater flexibility when choosing where to live.”

Other considerations for the decision regarding BYU’s student housing program include the challenges third-party, off-campus landlords face when requiring non-BYU students to abide by the CES Honor Code and BYU’s student housing policies.

“Like many universities,” Franklin said, “BYU will continue requiring students to live their first two semesters in BYU housing or off-campus contracted housing. Research repeatedly shows that students who initially have this close association with their fellow students have a better and more successful college experience.”

Single, undergraduate students can still choose to live in BYU On-Campus or BYU Off-Campus Contracted Housing after their first two semesters. Single students choosing to live in non-contracted off-campus housing after their first two semesters will continue to be required to abide by the CES Honor Code and BYU’s student housing policies, according to Thursday’s statement.

According to the BYU announcement, all students were notified of these decisions through email, which contained further details about the forthcoming changes in BYU’s student housing program. More information is available at http://och.byu.edu.

“Landlords of BYU Off-Campus Contracted Housing were also notified at the same time. BYU expressed appreciation to these property owners and explained that if they desire to participate as a BYU Off-Campus Contracted Housing provider, they should contact the BYU Off-Campus Housing Office by October 15, 2021,” the announcement said.

The forthcoming changes to BYU’s student housing program apply only to BYU. No changes are being made to student housing policies or programs at BYU-Hawaii, BYU-Idaho or Ensign College.


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