Column: Tossing the Rexburg housing monopoly

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Photo credit: Dallen Vick

On Sept. 23, students at BYU-Provo received welcomed news as they left their afternoon classes. The university had published a notice informing them that students would no longer be required to rent from approved housing.

For many, this was a massive game-changer. Under BYU’s former policy, most single students would be required to stay in housing approved by the university. This meant that attendees had a limited selection of apartments to choose from, vetted by BYU.

A PDF found on BYU’s website sheds light on reasoning for the former policy. It says that all apartments were selected because the university “desires an environment for its single undergraduate students living on and off campus that is conducive to their moral and spiritual growth as well as their academic performance.”

Julie Franklin, BYU’s Student Life vice president, clarified the changes in BYU’s housing policy.

“BYU will continue requiring students to live their first two semesters in BYU housing or off-campus contracted housing,” Franklin wrote. “Research repeatedly shows that students who initially have this close association with their fellow students have a better and more successful college experience.”

So why did the university change its policy?

“These decisions were made in an effort to better serve our students and provide them with more options,” Franklin said.

However, BYU-Idaho’s standards on student housing haven’t budged.

“As stated in BYU’s news release, there are no housing changes to BYU-Idaho’s approved housing,” said Brett Crandall, the BYU-I Media Relations Manager in an interview with Scroll.

But maybe there should be.

A “free market” is defined as “an economy operating by free competition.” This is a fundamental principle. If BYU-I released students from housing restrictions, students could see better prices as competition between apartment owners would increase. Currently, competition is open to only the select complexes that BYU-I approves.

Increased competition would also mean a better housing experience for students. Cleaner, updated and safer apartments mean a higher quality of living. This contributes to a wholesome and spiritual environment that would allow students to more fully take advantage of this special school.

I am a total advocate for the school’s honor code, which outlines basic rules such as roommates of the same gender, curfew hours and other guidelines that contribute to a wholesome and spiritual environment at BYU-I. I am simply against the administration of these rules through formal contracted housing.

I support the removal of approved housing requirements at BYU-Idaho. Adoption of a similar policy to BYU’s would also be acceptable. Allowing students to choose their living space without restriction will prepare them for later life, foster a more wholesome living space, and lower the cost of rent.