Singles living in family-zoned areas impact Provo housing

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Emily Ashcraft
Residents of Provo discuss solutions to housing problems with City Councilman Dave Knecht at an open house discussing rental law on Sept. 20. An amendment was proposed at the meeting that would make punishments more severe for landlords disobeying zoning laws. (Emily Ashcraft)

Provo City Council member Kim Santiago lived in a Provo area zoned for single-family homes, meaning the homes were built with two parking spots in an area meant for families. While she lived there, condos built for retired community members and small families soon began to be rented by groups of singles instead.

This caused numerous problems for Santiago and the other families living nearby, she said. The streets were lined with cars, making it hard for visitors to come, and the singles were making noise while Santiago’s toddlers were in bed.

The Provo City Council hosted an open house regarding rental law on Sept. 20 to give Provo residents a chance to voice their concerns. A proposed amendment to the Provo City code regarding zoning was discussed at the meeting that would potentially make it easier to enforce zoning laws.

At the meeting, landlords, tenants, and homeowners discussed their concerns with city council members and other city staff.

The problem of singles spreading into family areas is not just a problem near BYU, but in many other college towns as students graduate and decide to stay nearby, according to Provo City zoning administrator Carrie Walls.

In areas zoned for single-family housing, only three unrelated adults are allowed to occupy the residence. This ensures there will be enough parking spots, and the neighborhood will be a good place for families, according to Santiago.

The amendment will require landlords to have a contract with each tenant to hold both the landlords and the tenants more accountable when there is a complaint. According to Walls, the $250 fine is not a problem for the landlords because if the landlords are renting a property to six people, they are going to earn a lot more than they would renting to a family.

“Right now there’s really nothing deterring people from breaking the law,” Walls said. “People don’t think that what they do effects everybody else, it really does.”

The consequences to disobeying zoning laws will also be more severe if the amendment is passed. Rather than a fine of about $250, landlords will be required to go to court and could receive a Class B misdemeanor.

Santiago said a purpose of the amendment is to help everyone understand the laws so they will be more accountable to them.

If the landlord and the tenants understand the zoning right from the get-go, then there’s better understanding, better compliance and if they’re just willfully non-compliant then the city can do something,” Santiago said.

People who invested in housing because it was single-family housing complained at the meeting about the increase in singles who are living in these areas.

Provo residents discuss issues they encounter with housing at an open house discussing zoning laws on Sept. 20. One of the main complaints was about parking availability. (Emily Ashcraft)

One of the main complaints was about parking, which becomes a problem as more adults are living in a home, said Provo City council member Dave Knecht.

“Ideally the street is for service vehicles, for visitors and it’s not just to be a parking lot,” Knecht said.

Provo City recently assigned Provo City Attorney Marcus Draper to specialize in zoning cases. Provo City assigned Draper specifically to zoning cases so he will have enough time to address zoning concerns and help people comply with zoning laws.

“The ultimate goal is not to punish anyone, it’s to get compliance.” Draper said.  

According to Draper, the zoning laws will try to give landlords and tenants the benefit of the doubt and a chance to fix the problem on their own before the city files charges.

Knecht said the council is making plans to ensure singles also have a place to live. He is working with developers to figure out what kinds of housing are more appealing to singles because of the increasing number of singles in Provo.  

Knecht added that the city is planning to build housing developments on both sides of State Street. According to Knecht, these developments will have enough parking to be considered housing for singles, rather than single-family homes.

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