How a struggling Boise mother just got this affordable shipping-container house

Nichole Hoynacki spent months looking for an affordable Treasure Valley home for herself and three of her children. She came up empty.

“I was searching high and low for something that would fit my budget,” Hoynacki said in an interview. Suitable places were few and far between. “They were gone before you even got up that next morning.”

Two years ago, Hoynacki, 40, a graduate of Boise State University with a degree in social sciences, suffered a stroke. She lost her Boise home and became homeless. She and one of her children are now staying with a friend in Meridian. The other children are with friends.

Next week, Hoynacki and the children will move into a four-bedroom home at Windy Court, a four-home complex developed by Leap Charities of Boise in Northwest Boise. The four homes, each with 960 square feet, were made by IndieDwell, a Boise company that repurposes steel shipping containers. They will rent for $843 a month, including utilities.

“It was an overwhelming feeling to know I had been selected,” she said during a dedication ceremony Tuesday for the homes at 10000 W. Shields Ave., off State Street and the Old Horseshoe Bend Highway. “It still hasn’t sunk in all the way.”

More than 25 families applied to rent the homes before Leap stopped accepting applications. The need for affordable housing is so great that Leap knew it would continue receiving applications from people who would end up so far down the list that they wouldn’t have a chance of getting into one of the homes, said Bart Cochran, Leap’s executive director.

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Nichole Hoynacki became homeless after she suffered a stroke two years ago. Next week, she’ll move into a four-bedroom home made from three steel containers at Windy Court. Boise-based Leap Charities developed the four-home complex at 10000 W. Shields Ave., north of State Street. “It has a yellow door and yellow is my favorite color,” Hoynacki said. “It was destiny.” John Sowell

The project is a small step to help solve the housing crisis that is pricing some renters and buyers in Southwest Idaho out of the market. The cost of an average two-bedroom apartment in Boise rose 20.2 percent last year to $1,344, according to an analysis by

While a $200,000 house may be what a median Ada County family can afford to buy, few homes are selling at that price or below. The median price for an existing home was $108,450 more than that in April, according to the Intermountain Multiple Listing Service. Next door in Canyon County, the median price was $234,000.

Cay Marquart and her husband, Ron, owned the property where Windy Court is located. They wanted to build several tiny homes on the lot but abandoned the idea after they couldn’t get a zoning change to allow it.

Jerry Brady, an affordable housing advocate and Idaho Statesman columnist, introduced the Marquarts to Cochran. They agreed to donate the land to Leap Charities in exchange for an agreement that the homes would be solar-powered, the landscaping would consist of plants that require little water, the complex would include vegetable gardens, and there would be as much open space as possible.

The four homes at Windy Court made from shipping containers each have four bedrooms, two bathrooms and 960 square feet. Each home includes a carport and the complex includes community gardens. John Sowell

Cay Marquart, who attended Tuesday’s ceremony with her husband, said she was touched by Hoynacki‘s story and said that’s the type of family she wanted to help.

“We know this is a drop in the bucket but it shows we can help people,” Marquart said in an interview.

There’s often a stigma attached to low-income people and their circumstances, Cochran said. That often shapes people’s views of affordable housing projects, he said.

He said he hopes that telling Hoynacki‘s story will help bring greater awareness and acceptance of projects such as Windy Court.

“It’s hearing those human stories, the real stories of the people who are going to benefit from this, that blow those stigmas out,” Cochran told the Idaho Statesman. “If we can’t get past those stigmas and those challenges, then how do we move this affordable housing revolution forward?”

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Two of the four bedrooms lead off the living room at the front of the house. John Sowell

Hoynacki eagerly awaits moving in.

“I don’t know any of my neighbors yet,” she said. “I’m not shy and so I will know them very soon.”

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Reporter John Sowell has worked for the Statesman since 2013. He covers business and growth issues. He grew up in Emmett and graduated from the University of Oregon.If you like seeing stories like this, please consider supporting our work with a digital subscription to the Idaho Statesman.