Provo left to solve Orem housing crunch



    Without a cap on its enrollment, UVSC is admitting more and more students each year, and many of them want to live south of BYU campus.

    BYU off-campus housing official Stephen Nielsen said he estimates one-third of BYU-approved housing is occupied by non-BYU students. Other city and BYU officials have estimated the total is closer to 50 percent. Whatever the total, officials still do not know what to do with the housing glut south of campus.

    Enter the Provo Municipal Council, which has encouraged the development of the concept known as the South Campus Area Master Plan, or SCAMP.

    SCAMP tentatively calls for a reworking of city zoning ordinances that would allow private developers to build a full-service student village, including high-rise apartment buildings, retail stores and other services.

    The added housing would provide more space for students from both schools.

    One of the main purposes of the village, which would allow thousands of students to walk to class and to stores rather than drive, is to reduce the amount of traffic and pollution in the area.

    Rep. Jordan Tanner, R-Provo, who has served since 1990 but is retiring this year, said decreasing car use among students would solve many of Provo’s problems.

    “Pollution is an increasing problem in Utah County, but SCAMP would cut down on traffic, cut down on pollution and cut down on noise,” he said. “It’s an absolutely terrific idea.”

    Tanner said while the high-density housing provided by SCAMP will solve part of the problem, Orem City leaders need to find a way to house more of the UVSC population.

    “I would be one of the first to support more students coming into our valley, but the problem of an ever-increasing student population has got to be addressed,” he said.

    Tanner said he sees a problem with so many UVSC students living south of BYU campus.

    “The thing that is so unacceptable with that is they are driving clear from Provo and creating pollution and noise,” he said. “There is increasing reason to believe that Orem has got to build more student housing.

    “Orem has consistently not allowed the building of multi-unit housing specifically designed for student use.”

    Orem City Council member and BYU student Joseph Andersen said many Orem residents oppose student housing because they do not want their town to become a college town.

    “There is a lot of resistance from residents because it has always been a family town, but now we are a college town,” he said, referring to the approximately 20,000 students enrolled at UVSC. “I think we need to step up and provide some student housing.”

    At last week’s Orem City Council meeting, members discussed the possibility of amending the master plan to zone for more student housing.

    Tanner said the state will not fund student housing because there are more pressing needs, which leaves the issue in the hands of Orem city leaders.

    “Provo has been talking to Orem for several years about this and the bottom line is that Orem is going to have to respond,” he said. “Students will be willing to occupy it once there is an atmosphere, so I think Orem just needs to do it.”

    Provo City Chief Administrative Officer Bob Stockwell said that although Orem leaders have said they will work to provide more student housing, he isn’t holding his breath. He also said UVSC leaders have said they have no intention of ever approaching the legislature about building student housing.

    Since February, when talks regarding SCAMP began to get serious, some people have even suggested trying to exclude UVSC students from the area altogether. But Stockwell said that since the area will be developed privately, no one can be excluded.

    “People will live where people want to live,” he said.

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