Boise & Garden City

Boiseans might be asked to raise taxes to preserve affordable housing

In early March, this three-bedroom home at 1927 N. Raymond St., off West Fairview Avenue was one of only two Boise single-family homes listed for sale for less than $200,000. The soaring price of for-sale and rental housing in the Treasure Valley has become a major concern for residents and the elected officials who represent them.
In early March, this three-bedroom home at 1927 N. Raymond St., off West Fairview Avenue was one of only two Boise single-family homes listed for sale for less than $200,000. The soaring price of for-sale and rental housing in the Treasure Valley has become a major concern for residents and the elected officials who represent them. jsowell@IdahoStatesman.com

The city of Boise might ask residents to raise their taxes to help preserve affordable housing.

Amid growing concern over rising home prices, the city took a step in that direction with this year's citizen survey. Respondents were asked whether they would vote for a two-year property tax levy. A narrow majority — 58 percent — said they would vote for such a measure, according to results released Wednesday.

The survey had 594 respondents, with a 4 percent margin of error, according to Northwest Research Group, which conducted it. Most respondents completed an online survey after being prompted by a letter signed by Mayor David Bieter.

The city has turned to similar levies before. In 2015, 74 percent of Boise voters backed a two-year levy to raise $10 million for open space and water quality protections. Two years later, after the city botched collection of the tax money, an even greater majority backed a redo of the levy.

Survey support for a housing affordability levy was strongest in the North End, a solidly liberal neighborhood whose home prices are among the highestin town.

The levy idea is far from appearing on any ballot, city spokesman Mike Journee said Wednesday. The question was on the survey because "we wanted to just see what people thought about it," he said.

Details, such as how much money the levy would raise and how the money would be spent — on property purchases, rental assistance or other purposes — are nowhere close to being worked out, Journee said.

Housing affordability has emerged as one of the Treasure Valley's main worries as newcomers pour into the area, driving up rents and purchase prices. This year's citizen survey identified it as " an area of potential concern," as satisfaction with affordability has declined over the past five years.

At the same time, many residents are pushing back against projects to build new homes in Boise neighborhoodsin the place of fields, parking lots and old buildings.

The city of Boise has convened a handful of meetings this year with Bieter and the City Council to discuss the problem and identify potential solutions.

Boise typically commissions a citizen survey every two years to gauge opinions on issues ranging from transportation and public safety to the tax burden and overall satisfaction with city services.

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