By RODNEY ZWAHLEN
When Joe Wilson bought a house near campus for his sons and their friends, the real estate company said they were obeying all Provo city zoning ordinances.
That information was wrong.
Wilson’s sons, Joe Jr. and Clint, and their five roommates received notice last week that they had one week to cut down to three occupants in order to comply with a city ordinance.
“All the houses in the area are plenty big for more than three people,” said Wilson’s roommate Steve Anderson, 22, a junior from Sandy majoring in business management. “We even have four bedrooms, so it seems ridiculous to have it zoned that way.”
Joe Wilson Jr. said since his house is two blocks from campus, the area should be rezoned to allow for student living. He also said the problem of scarcity needs to be solved.
“When me and my friends got off our missions over the summer, it was impossible to find a place where all of us could live together,” he said. “That’s why my parents bought us a house.”
Luckily for Wilson and all other BYU students, the Student Advisory Council is looking for solutions to off-campus housing problems. SAC formed the Select Committee on Off-Campus Housing last fall to deal with student complaints.
Its interim report listed scarcity, high cost and violations of behavior and facility standards as the major problems. The committee expects to refine the interim report and soon present an official report to university administrators.
Although committee chairperson Erika Sanofsky understands SAC cannot interfere with city matters, she said her primary goal is to work with the BYU administration to solve housing problems.
“It’s the students who are being affected,” she said. “When Alton Wade (Vice President of Student Life) requested that we address student complaints about off-campus housing, I thought it would be impossible. But I’ve been surprised at how workable some of our solutions might be.”
The report includes a suggestion to remove the requirement that BYU students live in university-approved housing. Sanofsky is quick to point out that the intent of this suggestion is not to force students to “fend for themselves.”
“We would keep BYU-approved housing, but students wouldn’t have to live there,” she said. “We would place more emphasis on helping bishops rather than expecting landlords to enforce the honor code.”
According to the committee’s report, removing the requirement would “open the large reservoirs of housing in Utah Valley currently inaccessible to BYU students” and also cause BYU-approved rent to fall “by introducing more competition into the market.”
The committee plans to research the accuracy of its predictions.
“We need to take a look at how much other housing there is in the valley, how much it costs, and if it is housing the students will live in,” said committee member David Bargatze, 24, a law school student from Summerville, S.C.
In the meantime, students like Joe Wilson are forced to wait.
“I think the city really is fair about it, but the best thing they could do is update the laws,” he said.