With new construction beginning soon, the availability of community housing in Rexburg may meet the demand from married BYU-Idaho students and community members.
Since BYU-I became a four-year university in 2001, enrollment nearly tripled from about 9,000 to just over 19,399 students in fall 2017, according to BYU-I official enrollment statistics. Such rapid growth has put pressure on the community to find ways to provide housing for student and non-student residents.
“I would say for the past few semesters the community housing in Rexburg has been pretty tight,” said Adam Ririe, campus housing and research manager at BYU-I. “I know for the past several semesters it’s been very full, but there’s a lot more new product coming online, and I think if all of that stuff comes as it’s planned, then that will help quite a bit to alleviate the tight market.”
Community housing providers tend to agree that new properties could boost the supply in the market.
Daniel Fitt, property manager for Mesa Falls Apartments, said that predictions of continued growth of BYU-I and an influx of non-student residents are driving new building projects in Rexburg.
“That sparks the building and growth, and then there tends to be some overbuilding, and then there’s a little bit of a surplus in the market and then usually the growth catches back up in the pattern, starts over again,” Fitt said. “So right now we’re kind of at equilibrium where I think the market is starting to catch up with the growth.”
Kartchner Property Management, the owner of Mesa Falls, recently broke ground on a new multi-family property called Eden. It will contain 481 units, with the first units opening March 22, 2019.
Richie Webb, CEO of Hemming Properties, said for students seeking community housing sooner, Hemming Properties will open 52 new units above the Hemming Village retail space Sept. 1.
“I think that the shortage problem is going to be quickly corrected with the amount of inventory that’s being built currently,” Webb said. “But at one time there was clearly a shortage, and so we felt like there was a need for additional community housing, particularly closer to campus.”
Ririe said while single student housing has good market data to predict growth, determining the demand for married student housing is hard because BYU-I doesn’t have the same detailed data.
“We want to help married students find housing as much as we can, and we want to provide as many resources as we can, but we don’t really have any governance over if a builder wants to build a married housing complex in Rexburg,” Ririe said. “We just hope that the market will drive that so there will be enough resources for our married students.”
Another issue facing married students may not be just finding housing, but finding housing they can afford.
Dean Johnson, spokesman for the Idaho Housing and Finance Association, said the Idaho Housing and Finance Association works with the state to find ways to subsidize housing costs for residents who qualify. In Rexburg, the association has only five affordable housing complexes.
“With affordable housing, it’s not just an issue in Rexburg,” Johnson said. “It’s really an issue that’s facing the entire state of Idaho. Affordable housing is something that everybody wishes there was more of.”
The Housing and Student Living Office said the key thing to finding community housing for married students comes down to shopping early.
“It’s tough though because from one moment to the next you don’t really know,” Ririe said. “You think ‘Well I’m maybe going to be getting married this semester or next semester, or ‘I’m going to get engaged this semester at least so I better start shopping,’ but you don’t know until she says yes. I know it’s really tough for students to make decisions early when they don’t really know for sure if wedding plans are going to work out.”
Ririe said the Housing and Student Living Office hears stories from students who struggle to find housing, but with good research and planning, other students find housing just fine.
“It isn’t hard to find housing,” said Elizabeth Palomares, a senior studying elementary education. “There are plenty of options. But, if you are wanting a certain price, you definitely have to search long and hard for a place — especially if you don’t know very many other couples who can help you out and give you tips.”
Ririe said despite more housing, some students end up living in the area surrounding Rexburg.
“I definitely think it’s hard to find married housing here,” said Alyssa Green, a senior studying special education K-12. “It’s really frustrating actually because there’s always new complexes being built but hardly any of them are for community housing. There are a lot of couples that have to live in places like St. Anthony or Idaho Falls.”
Ririe said the Housing and Student Living Office encourages married students to seek resources at their website. Students can also check the BYU-I bulletin board and Rexburg Facebook groups.
Fitt said visiting complexes and taking tours will help too. He wants students to know that taking a tour isn’t a commitment, and it can help students find housing that fits them best.