Coming home to no home

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The Utah Valley housing crisis

The LDS Church lowered the minimum age for missionary service October 2012 from 19 to 18 for men and from 21 to 19 for women. This resulted in a swift increase of missionaries from 58,990 at the time of the announcement to the current 85,147.

The change certainly made ripples in the LDS community, but it also had some indirect effects on the local population, especially here in Utah County. Immediately following the announcement, a flood of young adults became missionaries, decreasing college enrollment numbers all over the state.

Now as many of these missions draw to a close, there has been a mass of returning missionaries applying for school. Consequently, as students prepared for fall semester, they came to find a major shortage in housing. In fact, most surrounding housing was filled up before the semester had even started.

Another unfortunate kicker of our housing issue is that UVU has yet to establish its own contracts with apartment complexes from Orem to Provo. “25 percent of UVU students live in BYU-approved housing,” said Dylan Swarts, UVUSA President. “BYU’s schedule unfortunately doesn’t align with ours, which means that these students sign a BYU contract, and are kicked out of their apartment before our semester is even over.”

So why aren’t there dorms at UVU? UVU has kicked around the idea of putting dorms on campus, but the first problem would be their location. Parking is already an issue, so taking up a parking lot isn’t really first choice. The second concern UVU has is liability. On-campus housing would be extremely costly and worrisome for both the school and the students. The probability of an accident, crime, or emergency could create an unsafe environment for students, as well as creating bad publicity for UVU.

UVU holds a master planning forum every 4-10 years to decide what to do with future buildings or to simply come up with new ideas for campus, such as the new Wellness Center. With UVU recently acquiring the Geneva property, 125 acres on the corner of Geneva Rd. and Vineyard city limits, Swarts has formed a master planning committee to attend these meetings and attempt to push the construction of dorms on that property. Additionally, the UVUSA is also working with any willing apartments from BYU to UVU to make a separate contract for UVU students.

“With UVU being concerned with the liability issues, one of the possibilities would be to seek a private contractor who purchases the land and rents it out to the tenants,” said Swarts. “I would definitely love to see dorms here. It would boost school pride and morale.”

The latter proposal would essentially be a win-win, as the school profits from the contractor, the contractor profits from the student and student fees don’t increase since UVU isn’t spending money on the housing.

Swarts did indicate that things are definitely in the works on the student side to improve the housing situation. Parties interested in being a part of the committee, attending meetings or wanting more information may email Dylan Swarts at [email protected].