Things To Act
Wednesday, January 21, 2004
 
TwoMileGate
BYU NewsNet - SAC discusses full impact of new 2-mile radius rule

I was interested in this issue when it first was reported last month, not that I have any personal stake in the outcome (it's likely I'll be out of Provo by then), and not that I think my opinion matters very much to those who decide these things (it's a private university).

However, I did think this policy was curious because the justifications given were weak (original article not currently available via Newsnet, as far as I can tell). The justifications, as I recall, as reported by the DU, included:

*'Students who live closer to campus tend to have better GPAs than students who don't.' Okay, except that one of the first rules of social science is that correlation is not causation. There may be a causal element at work, or it could be that forcing lower-GPA students to live closer to campus won't actually change their study habits.

*'We want to preserve the BYU atmosphere in off-campus housing.' This arguments seems to have overtones of 'we only want BYU students to live with other BYU students,' an argument I'm not entirely comfortable with. Students who want to live only with BYU students can presently choose to live on campus, while students who want to live around BYU students even if they don't go to BYU, for whatever reason, should be given that opportunity, I tend to think. I've lost count of how many premies we've had come through our ward who moved here to work before their missions just for the atmosphere.

*There may have been some arguments about the ease of administering BYU approval. This isn't something I'm competent to evaluate, though it doesn't seem this policy makes a substantive difference in the administrative load.

That said, the policy will have several obvious effects. First, rent prices will tend to increase, as follows any supply restriction (particularly as the demand for BYU approved housing has a certain degree of inflexibility to it). Second, consumer surplus will definitely decrease, while producer surplus will probably increase [get a friendly econ student to draw the diagrams for you, as making them show up through Blogger is beyond my present technical competence]. Third, the lessened competition will give complexes less incentive to upgrade their facilities or contract offers. Fourth, a lot of students will whine about being oppressed (this isn't actually a strike against the proposal, except in the sense that the administration shouldn't go out of its way to encourage whining, however unjustified).

There may be valid reason to incur these effects, such as an effort to prevent developers from turning Provo residential neighborhoods into student neighborhoods (which can be a valid social goal, though I would think that the administration could say so if that was its intention).

I do have to wonder at the logic expressed by this quote, though: "Most feel this new policy will give landlords an incentive to raise prices. The off-campus housing office does not expect this to happen. Rent for this year has actually decreased, and they are hoping that will be the trend in the upcoming years, [Garry Briggs, the manager of BYU Off-Campus Housing] said."

First, in my understanding as a renter (and I haven't seen anything to dispute it), the major reason rents (including mine) dropped in September was because, coincidentally enough, Parkway Crossing opened after heavily advertising, taking several thousand students out of the Provo housing market. Demand drops, prices drop, landlords get desperate to fill vacancies. Pretty straightforward. Furthermore, any Econ 110 student can draw the supply & demand diagram that shows that rent will almost certainly increase under the new boundaries. I predict a strong possibility of angry letters, possibly from economics faculty (they did take on the Bookstore's assertion that it isn't a monopoly a few years ago).

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