Herald Editorial: Provo, where ‘Welcome home’ doesn’t apply to the young, single professional population

May 27, 2018 GMT

Effective Aug. 1, tenants of rental dwellings in Provo must sign a disclosure form from a landlord agreeing to comply with occupancy and parking requirements.

“A change in the law is coming, We want you to be aware of it. Violations of the provisions discussed below can carry criminal penalties, so we want everyone to get the word on what they need to do,” the city published in a letter supposedly sent to all residents. Some had not received the notice prior to the first and largest open house has already taken place to explain the change in law.

These new papers must be kept on hand in case someone from the city requests to see it at a home based on “reasonable suspicion that there is a violation.”

According to the Pew Research Center’s analysis of Census Bureau data, more U.S. households are headed by renters than at any point since 1965.

“Certain demographic groups such as young adults, nonwhites and the lesser educated — have historically been more likely to rent than others, and rental rates have increased among these groups over the past decade,” according to a data report published in July 2017 by Pew Research authors. “However, rental rates have also increased among some groups that have traditionally been less likely rent, including whites and middle-aged adults.”

Approximately 67 percent of housing units in Utah County are owner occupied, compared to 64 percent nationally. One-third of Utah County’s householders are renters — 49,000.

In Provo, people ages 25- to 34-years-old account for 16 percent of the city’s population, the second largest age group, behind 20- to 24-year-olds at 29.6 percent.

And yet, older segments of the Provo population that are significantly smaller than that of 25- to 34-year-olds are singling out millennials to solve what they claim are occupancy and parking issues.

But, levying criminal penalties — class B and class C misdemeanors typically reserved for those arrested with smaller amounts of drugs or public intoxication — for occupancy violations against these young, working professionals for living more than three people to a home is an excuse to get rid of them, not an effort to resolve parking problems or the housing dilemma.

Call it what it is.

After all, southeast Provo is hardly the only section of Provo with parking issues. The whole city is full of parking problems, including in neighborhoods of single-family homes. Who does the city think will rent these large condos and townhomes once these single professionals are forced out and unable to pay the higher rents? Multiple families in a home, with just as many cars for the parents and growing teenagers.

The city is preparing to punish those with more than three unrelated tenants in a home with misdemeanors, while simultaneously voicing more and more resistance to an increase in construction of high-density housing.

So, if the city refuses more than three unrelated renters to live in a home and won’t allow zoning and construction of more apartments and condos to fill growing needs, where are these young, single professionals supposed to go?

Based on population projects from 2016-2065, Utah County will go from 321 persons per square mile in Utah County in 2018 to double that at 648 persons per square mile in a little over 30 years. The city needs to work with developers to create more places for people to live, not force further shortages. There are unintended consequences that will take place because of this change in law. If fewer individuals live in a rental property, there will be a need for more rental properties. More single-family homes in existing neighborhoods will turn to this profitable venture to fill the economic demands.

But homeowners don’t want renters — that dirty word — living in their neighborhoods, because renters are considered and treated as less than, however false that notion is.

Provo wants single millennials out. We have witnessed the way some members of the Provo Municipal Council have spoken derogatorily about millennials, and while the rest stood by and stayed silent. Provo has been crystal clear in its message that young, single professionals are not welcome.

The interesting twist in all of this is that it is the generations before millennials have created this problem they blame on single, young professionals.

Eight-one percent of Utah County’s growing population is completely home grown.

If longtime residents don’t want to allow high-density housing, more renters and more homes to be constructed on smaller lots, then they shouldn’t be having more children. Because this is where our growth is coming from.

We are refusing affordable housing and rentals to our own kids.

As such a large segment of the population, both in economic drivers and dwellers, it is past time for young, single professionals to unify and stand up for their needs as residents, or speak the strongest message. Speak with your money.

If Provo is insistent on discriminating against single, working professionals then this part of the workforce, these startup owners, teachers, businessmen and women should take their money they contribute to the Provo economy and move to another city that will not punish them for merely being young and unmarried and unable to obtain one of the limited 1-bedroom apartments available for $979 a month.

Startup companies should see this new change in law and refuse to base their business in the city. Other businesses should see this is an attack on their young, skilled workforce and speak out. Businesses have much to lose if this segment of the workforce leaves this area.

These skilled, young workers are not the same as drug users, and should not be punished as such. The law should change, and not to what is currently being pushed through.

The city is wrong.