Business Insider

Boise’s hot home-sales market is leaving lower-income people behind

Jerry Brady: Compassionate Business
Jerry Brady: Compassionate Business

Boise real estate agents have sold so many homes recently there are not a lot left. What comes on the market can sell in days, often after competitive bidding and even above the asking price. It’s beginning to look a bit like Seattle.

At the other end of the market, low-end renters are also seeing diminished inventory. Mobile home parks are closing or upgrading. Apartment complexes are being converted from low-range to mid-range rents. The net number of affordable units is declining, says Deanna Watson, director of the Boise City-Ada County Housing Authority, and fewer landlords are willing to accept vouchers.

Asked about the news that President Donald Trump supports federal housing tax credits — which provide about $4.4 million a year in credits to build new affordable units in Idaho — Watson says that’s great, but Trump would also eliminate community development block grants, which help pay for sewer, water and housing infrastructure, and HOME grants, which cities use as matching funds for affordable housing.

“Idaho provides no money for housing, nor does it allow its cities and counties to bond for it,” Watson says. “State law also prohibits requiring developers to offer some lower-cost units in a higher-cost development, as other states permit.”

One unit of government recently took a commendable step forward. The Capital City Development Corp., Boise’s urban renewal agency, plans to donate or sell at less than market value land it owns off River Street in Downtown Boise if the builder rents to those making 80 to 140 percent of median local income.

We need solutions with enough scale to address the toughest end of the market. I’m still looking for small, standardized, manufactured dwellings, for new resident-owned mobile home parks, and other answers if Boise is to be “the most livable city in America” for all of its citizens, not just its middle and upper classes.

I’ll keep looking. You too. We know there’s a pony in there somewhere.

Jerry Brady is a member of Compassionate Boise. This column appears in the April 19-May, 16, 2017, edition of the Idaho Statesman’s Business Insider magazine as part of a special section on residential real estate.