Housing quality doesn’t always live up to price, students say

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Editor’s note: The Daily Universe received more than 100 comments on a June 5, 2017 Facebook post asking our readers about issues they have had with off-campus housing. Those comments led, in part, to the development of the BYU Off-Campus Housing Series.

Part One – Off-campus BYU housing: It’s complicated

Part Three – BYU students struggle to sell yearlong housing contracts

Part Four – Off-campus tenants and landlords clash over security deposits

Part Five – Students find ways to cope during “homeless week”

Part Six – Students share their housing horror stories

Part Seven – BYU-contracted housing: What to do if you have a problem

The BYU Off-Campus Housing Series — Part Two

Students say you get what you pay for when it comes to Provo housing.

BYU chemical engineering student Matt Jones said students have to be quick about finding and signing for affordable housing in Provo, but that doesn’t guarantee the best quality.

“You get what you pay for,” Jones said.

Jones said he signed up the moment there was an opening in his current apartment complex. Apartments at his complex cost $150 per month during Spring and Summer terms and $330 per month for Fall and Winter semesters.

“The apartments are small, and it’s a little ghetto to be honest, but for the amount, it’s nice,” Jones said.

Jones said parking at his complex is a problem because there are only approximately 30 parking spots provided for the approximately 80 tenants during a normal semester.

“Parking in general in Provo is not the best, which means the entire road is backed up, as well,” Jones said.

Off-Campus Housing Office general manager Garry Briggs said his office can help BYU students who feel their housing isn’t worth what they are paying.

“Our office has minimum specifications for these contracted apartments,” Briggs said. “We want our students to contact us when they feel they don’t get what they pay for.”

Briggs said it seems like student issues with apartments are not reported until after they’ve moved out.

“It makes us sad they’ve lived through that instead of just calling us right at the start to see if we can do something about it,” Briggs said.

When the Off-Campus Housing Office receives complaints from students, someone from the office — either a student inspector or full-time official — conducts an inspection to evaluate the condition of the apartments and the student’s claims. Who conducts the inspection depends on office staff availability.

“If we find what the student tenant said was true, we draft a letter listing the deficiencies found in the apartment and ask the facility owner to tell us a timeline on when the issue can be addressed and fixed,” Briggs said.

Briggs said the Off-Campus Housing Office will inspect issues in one or two business days from the report time, and the office gives the property managers written notice in one or two business days.

At the time the office provides written notice, it also sets a follow-up date for five to 10 business days later, depending on the nature of the concern. On the follow-up date, the office re-inspects the apartment.

If the property managers don’t address the items in question prior to re-inspection, the Off-Campus Housing Office issues a second notice with a shorter window of time for completion. If the issue continues to go unresolved, the Off-Campus Housing Office will suspend the contract between the complex or unit and the office.

Alyssa Challis, property manager of Foxwood Apartments, said it’s up to the tenants to bring awareness to problems they have with the apartments.

“We show tenants when they move in how to submit a maintenance request,” Challis said. “If there’s something not working, they need to turn one in.”

Briggs said the price of the apartment would not go down if the issues were resolved because price is driven by supply and demand and not by the Off-Campus Housing Office. However, the quality of the apartment could be expected to go up because of the standard set between the housing office and the contracted apartments.

The below chart details average rental rates for single-student housing ranging from 2000 to 2017. Students can consult the BYU Housing Guide to further compare prices.

This table shows the average BYU off-campus housing rates. (BYU Off-Campus Housing Office)

 

Erica Curtis, a married student studying public health, said finding student housing becomes increasingly competitive the closer it is to campus.

“I think a lot of the reason the pickings are so slim is the price,” Curtis said.

Curtis and her husband made the decision to live closer to campus so she can walk to class and her husband, who attends UVU, can take the car.

Curtis pays $615 per month for rent.

“It will go up to $635 in the fall, but it’s still a pretty big difference between the $800 to $900 people usually pay in Provo,” Curtis said. “We actually got really good quality for a really good price.”

Curtis said finding a good quality apartment for a decent price is rare for Provo and she was only able to find her apartment because her brother-in-law lived there before.

“A lot of the other places we looked at – especially basement apartments – had dents and holes in the walls and water stains on the ceiling,” Curtis said.

Curtis said if she hadn’t known someone to help get her apartment, she would have had a hard time finding a clean apartment for a good price.

“We were almost ready to say, ‘We’re done searching in Provo, so we might as well just commute and deal with it,’” Curtis said.

Curtis also said she felt one problem with finding quality affordable housing is the lack of updated housing, and the outdated housing charges high rates.

“The really nice, updated housing is charging way more than they need to be, but their rates have to go up from the non-updated housing,” Curtis said.

These concerns of housing price and quality are not unique to Provo. Stephen Boxx, a married BYU–Idaho student, said he has faced similar struggles in Rexburg, Idaho.

“Housing is competitive for quality as well as quantity, especially with married housing,” Boxx said.

Boxx and his wife pay $620 a month before utilities for their updated two-bedroom apartment.

“We’re very fortunate,” Boxx said. “I know of plenty of places in Rexburg that are almost $700 for a single-bedroom, studio-style apartment.”

Matt Skinner, a BYU–Idaho student who recently moved to Provo for an internship opportunity, said some of his housing situations in Rexburg were awful.

Skinner said one apartment complex looked nice from the outside, but “inside it was really bad.”

“It definitely shouldn’t have been priced where it was,” Skinner said. “The units were pretty old.”

Skinner said that apartment rented for just under $1,000 per semester, or about $250 per month during fall and winter. Now in Provo, he said he pays around $225 a month for his apartment during spring and summer semesters.

“I’m not super impressed with the quality. It’s okay, but it’s just smaller than I thought it would be,” Skinner said. “I expected a bit more, but I saw it before moving in, so I guess I got what I was going for.”

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