Married students: Provo housing is highly competitive

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Too expensive. Too old. Needed to be renovated. Had a wait list a mile long.

Married BYU students and alumni say finding suitable housing for couples is a difficult feat in Provo. (Elliott Miller)

BYU student Carina Parsons was drowning in schoolwork, wedding planning and preparing for finals. On top of all that, she and her soon-to-be-husband had searched Provo high and low for affordable housing.

With so many other couples on the hunt, finding a good place seemed impossible. Every decent and affordable apartment was snatched up quickly. And with their wedding drawing ever closer, Parsons worried she and her fiance would be homeless after they said, “I do.”

Luckily, something worked out for them in the nick of time.

“We didn’t find housing until four days before our wedding,” Parsons said. “(It was) very stressful.”

Parsons and her husband found housing in Provo, but other couples aren’t so lucky.

BYU has one of the highest percentages of married students in the country. According to Todd Hollingshead of University Communications, roughly 25 percent of BYU students are married. And Business Insider named BYU as the top college in the country for “colleges where you’re most likely to meet your future spouse.”

The high amount of BYU couples getting married makes Provo a tough place to find affordable and satisfactory two-person housing.

According to BYU alumna Rachel Mitton, part of the problem is that there isn’t enough married housing.

“Provo is building and building and building, but it’s always for single people,” Mitton said, adding that landlords can charge more for apartments housing single people each paying individual contracts than for apartments housing one couple. 

Parsons also agreed there isn’t enough married housing.

“There are like 20 other couples going for the same place,” Parsons said.

Cheryl Edwards owns a duplex in Provo that she rents out to married couples. Edwards said she tries to keep the price low because she knows how expensive housing can be.

“When we list it for new tenants, I probably get 50 calls immediately,” Edwards said. “I get more calls than I can even answer sometimes.”

BYU student Hannah Parry says the competition makes it very difficult to find housing in her budget.

“Everything is so expensive because the demand is so high,” Parry said.

A person earning minimum wage would have to work 76 hours per week to afford a one-bedroom apartment and 94 hours per week to afford a two-bedroom apartment in Utah, according to data from the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

Parry and her husband looked for housing in Provo for months before their wedding. When multiple places fell through, they decided to look outside Provo. The couple lived in Draper for a month and a half until they found housing closer to BYU. At the open house, 24 other couples showed up with applications for the same apartment.

“The only reason we got it is because our neighbor knew (my husband) on his mission and they put in a good word,” Parry said. “We also offered $150 extra the first month and that was what really got us in. Married housing in Provo is a bloodbath.”

Heather Kelley runs a management company in Provo that rents housing to both married couples and single students. She attested to the competitive nature of looking for housing.

“Those that are looking need to move quickly in order to secure a unit,” Kelley said. “We normally have married units sell within under 24 hours.”

Spencer Mecham owns a house in Provo that he has rented to both married couples and single students. He thinks some landlords are all about the money, but he prefers less hassle.

“We love our married couples,” Mecham said. “A tenant that respects the property and stays for longer terms is always worth way more than higher prices.”

Students also complain about the quality of married housing in Provo.

BYU student Kayla Richards said engaged students are so desperate, landlords can charge “almost whatever they want without having to worry about quality.”

BYU alumna Rebecca Durfee and her husband lived in an apartment that flooded over and over again when they were first married.

“We knew this would be a problem but didn’t have any choice financially,” Durfee said.

Durfee and her husband were finally able to move out but found their second apartment only by securing it five months before they actually moved in, forcing them to pay five months of rent for an apartment they weren’t using.

Searching for housing

Although finding housing is difficult, couples can do several things to increase their chances of finding an affordable place to live:

  • Search on Facebook.
  • Search KSL classifieds or Craigslist for other options.
    • Students have found that sometimes searching outside of Provo gives them better or more affordable options. BYU student Sandy Potts said, “We got super lucky and found a place in Mapleton. I advise everyone to look outside of Provo because it’s super hard to find a place.”
  • Don’t give up!
    • BYU alumna Haley Furstenau said, “Finding married housing means a lot of time spent.”
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