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Affordable homes get tougher to find in Treasure Valley

A worker on Coleman Homes’ 1,400-home The Oaks subdivision in Meridian. Owner Thomas Coleman expects the large price increases of 2015 to be followed by slower, more sustainable growth. “We’re a 3 percent growth market in terms of population growth, market growth and price appreciation,” he says.
A worker on Coleman Homes’ 1,400-home The Oaks subdivision in Meridian. Owner Thomas Coleman expects the large price increases of 2015 to be followed by slower, more sustainable growth. “We’re a 3 percent growth market in terms of population growth, market growth and price appreciation,” he says. kgreen@idahostatesman.com

Once again, it is becoming difficult for middle-income people to buy a house in the Treasure Valley.

Median home prices in Ada County have risen faster than inflation for the past four years: 9 percent in 2015, 6 percent in 2014, 16.5 percent in 2013 and 16.4 percent in 2012. That is a big pendulum swing from 2007-11’s declines. Prices have slipped slightly since November’s $240,000 peak, but today’s $235,000 still tops the $233,000 median in 2006, the boom’s peak year.

So more first-time homebuyers must struggle to save for down payments. Many workers must pay more than a third of their incomes to own starter homes (a far higher share than wealthy owners devote to premium homes). More people who hoped to live in Boise or Meridian must “drive till you qualify” to less-costly Kuna, Nampa or Caldwell. Canyon County prices are still one-third lower than Ada’s, but they surged 16 percent in the past 12 months.

Of course, high prices are good news for sellers and their agents. March sales in the two counties totaled $217 million, up 18.5 percent from March 2015. But that discourages people from trading up.

New-home construction — the focus of the cover story of the April 20-May 17 edition of Business Insider magazine — is surging: Thirty-six percent more homes were built in March in Ada County than a year earlier. But low-end demand still exceeds supply. The median price is almost $300,000.

One of our regular columnists, Jerry Brady, explores local “pocket neighborhoods” that provide affordable housing. Brady also produced an enlightening 92-second video — the first by a BI columnist — that you will find embedded in his column.

David Staats: 208-377-6417. This column appears in the April 20-May 17, 2016, edition of the Idaho Statesman’s Business Insider magazine, which includes a special section on residential real estate.

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