IVINS — As Southern Utah’s first medical school nears completion in Ivins, city officials are looking to accommodate the new influx of students by discussing an option that would allow the rental of spare rooms and casitas in private homes.
The Rocky Vista University College of Osteopathic Medicine is on track for completion this summer and students are expected to begin moving to the area in July.
The school is doing its own part to provide housing with the construction of student dormitories, but it has asked the city to help make up any difference.
Council member Ron Densley is heading the effort to see that any shortfall in housing is made up within the city itself.
“We’re looking for students that will be here during the semesters … where they could, you know, work on their degrees and still be able to enjoy the city and not go to St. George and other areas and be part of our community,” Densley said.
The city lacks any kind of subsidized housing and someone looking to rent within the city faces steep rates likely prohibitive to a student’s income.
“They’re still looking at $1,000 to $1,500 a month, at least,” Densley said, “to rent a home or a twin home or anything like that.”
Current, city code prohibits the rental of rooms, basements or casitas in single family homes.
“There’s some of it going on with rooms, basements and casitas,” City Manager and Attorney Dale Coulam said, acknowledging that such rentals are already taking place in some homes.
“Technically, they may be violating the law as we currently have it. So, the question is, do we want to relax it? And what do you want your standard to be?” he asked.
Some complications currently stand in the way of allowing such rentals. Previously, homeowners were issued deeds with restriction regarding rentals, and all of those deeds would need to be amended to be allowed to rent out rooms.
“This would be complicated. It’s sort of a can of worms because we’ve gone to great lengths to define where short term rentals can occur,” Ivins Mayor Chris Hart said.
Any changes in the code would apply only to long term rentals, which typically carry their own stipulations regarding tenant amenities.
“And further complication when you’re talking about rooms for rent, now you’re getting into something to do with public access and facilities available to the tenant and all of that,” Hart said. “It would be a complicated thing to sort that out.”
There was also some disagreement within the council as to whether such rentals were entirely necessary to accommodate the housing needs of students.
“I think the market will drive this … I don’t know that we have to get involved,” council member Stephen Roberts said.
Roberts suggested that apartments could be built in response to the increasing student population.
Alternatively, council member Dennis Mehr said other nearby communities may also help provide housing.
“I’m not feeling as strong as Ron, maybe, that all these students have to live in our community,” Mehr said. “If people find some housing in Santa Clara or they find some in St. George, that’s awesome, because the whole county will benefit for Rocky Vista being here.”
However, council member Cheyne McDonald said he believes allowing such rentals is an inevitability that the city should look into sooner than later.
“I think it would be wise to be ahead of the curve,” McDonald said.
The council agreed to turn the matter over to the city Planning Commission for further research and consideration.
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