Should non-students be allowed to live in student housing areas?

It may appear to be a self-evident concept that students live in student housing. But should the area exclude those non-students who may also need the more affordable housing?The issue has landlords concerned about both fairness and profit margins.

"It (student housing) needs to be housing for students or you defeat your purpose," said Councilwoman Judy Bell as the Orem Council discussed approving an ordinance that installs a special zone for student housing in additional areas. The special zone, known as a student overlay zone, has so far been limited to case-by-case projects defined by the council as appropriate for student housing.

Adaptations to the student overlay zone are supposed to spell out what constitutes projects that qualify for the zone.

"We don't have housing for our college," said Bell, who argued that by making the ordinance restrictive it creates a place for students to live that wouldn't otherwise exist.

Bell said she supports reducing the current requirement that asks that 100 percent of the occupants in student apartments be enrolled in higher education classes. Bell said she could accept a 90 percent student occupancy require-ment.

"But I don't want to go any less," Bell said.

Apartment owner Mike Anderson argued that he will have to ask some of his tenants to leave if the ordinance isn't relaxed. He asked that the percentage of required student occupancy be set at 70 percent.

Anderson said he has students sell their contracts to non-students and he must fill summer vacancies to stay in business. He also said he wants to continue to offer housing to disabled people.

Anderson owns the Greenbriar Apartments at 650 S. 1200 West. "We will have 25 percent empty if we can't rent to others in the summers," he said.

He was only partially successful in his effort to relax the standard. The council adopted the ordinance pretty much intact except to drop the student occupancy requirement to 90 percent. It was also determined that students in student housing need not be pursuing a four-year degree.

Bell said the provision stipulating that the tenants need only be involved in classes for nine months a year would allow for summer rentals.

Councilman Steve Heinz said the standards for the overlay zone were set to allow a density of 26 units per acre with the intent that the units be built for student life-styles.

Others at the council meeting asked for the parking stall requirement to be increased from 1.5 stalls per bedroom to at least 2 per bedroom.

Director of Development Services Stanford Sainsbury said the standard of 1.5 is a fairly high standard and should be sufficient.

"We've never had one built to this standard yet," he said.

Additional standards require that the apartments be of specified exterior materials; provide 20 feet of setback, consolidated open space and 200 feet of frontage; be built on at least a 1 1/2-acre lot; have only two students per bedroom; and be approved by the planning commission.

"Our purpose is to provide affordable housing that is of good quality," said City Manager Jim Reams.