With only 5 percent of Utah County's land mass, the city of Provo is home to 70 percent of the county's rental properties.

"For rent" signs clutter lawns as transient students move in and out of the college town, but developers continue to build high-density complexes. Is there more supply than demandfi

"There may be a surplus of student housing, but I don't think there's a surplus of good student housing," said George Stewart, Provo city councilman.

Stewart, once a Brigham Young University bishop, said he was "appalled" at the "substandard" condition of homes south of 500 North that his student members were living in. He said council members support the onslaught of apartment development north of 500 North, and hope that homes south of that will be renovated.

Newer complexes, like the Lanai on 700 North and 900 East, boast private rooms, fitness centers and social areas, a long shot from run-down single family homes. A huge 238-unit complex will be completed by ArrowStar construction by fall 2009 on the property where Joaquin Elementary once stood.

And it doesn't stop there.

Alpine Village, a 163-unit complex, continues to rise from Freedom Boulevard. But this mixed-use project will differ from its competitors like the Belmont. Along with its private rooms, retail stores and fitness center, Alpine Village will have trained "peer staff" members, similar to RAs in freshman dorms.

That's because Alpine Village will be one of two BYU chartered housing complexes, which means only BYU students may live there. Centennial apartments, just off 900 East, has been chartered since August of last year.

In the words of Centennial's Web site, it's "on-campus standards with an off-campus lifestyle."

All single BYU undergraduates are required to live in on- or off-campus housing that is contracted by the university, but that doesn't guarantee Cougars for roommates. Any student may live in BYU contracted housing, as long as they abide by the Honor Code.

"Students go into the experience assuming they will live with others living the Honor Code," said Julie Franklin, director of residence life at BYU.

Unfortunately that's not always the case. Centennial's Web site says chartered housing gives the "added assurance that your roommates will keep the Honor Code."

Franklin explains that chartered housing "creates a stronger link between the university and an off-campus housing provider."

One way to do that is with the hired peer staff members.

"There is a lot of pressure during the university time," Franklin said. "We are provided resources so that these issues don't take up their emotional energy."

In addition to chartered housing, BYU is transitioning Wyview Park from student family housing to single student housing.

Currently, half of Wyview Park is rented to single students, mostly upperclassmen. And since Deseret Towers will be completely closed and demolished by September, Wyview families must move out by June of this year to make room for entering freshman in the fall.

"We have a healthy rental market right now," Franklin said, noting a low 8 percent vacancy rate for winter semester 2007 in BYU contracted housing.

"We're constantly looking at what is best for our students," she said. "If we were housing students in the 1940s, our housing program would be very different."

Franklin said students today are a lot more tech savvy, have a desire for more privacy, and come from smaller families.

"Most of them have never shared a room," she added.

Discussions for chartered housing like Alpine Village began a decade ago, Franklin said.

"The city has been liberal in their zoning," Stewart said, noting that Provo is currently 62 percent rental properties and 38 percent owner-occupied. He would like those numbers to be more like 50/50.

"The market will balance itself out," he said. "I don't think there's any question that we feel that these new developments will pull students out of single family homes."

Alpine Village's chartered housing contract that begins in the fall will last two years.

One caveat of the agreement is if occupancy falls below 90 percent after the first year, New Star has a right to rent to other students.

The mixed-use project on more than 4 acres features 163 condos with four private rooms each, underground parking, fitness and social facilities and 10 retail spaces.

Private rooms will rent for $365 per month. Men and women will be housed in separate buildings, in accordance with BYU contracted housing rules.

Kate McNeil can be reached at 344-2549 or kmcneil@heraldextra.com.

This story appeared in The Daily Herald on page B1.

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