Boise & Garden City

Finding affordable rent in Idaho could be hard. This report shows why

As prices rise, home building booms from Boise to Caldwell

Home construction is booming from Boise to Caldwell in Southwest Idaho, but home prices are still setting records, worsening the shortage of affordable housing for moderate-income buyers.
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Home construction is booming from Boise to Caldwell in Southwest Idaho, but home prices are still setting records, worsening the shortage of affordable housing for moderate-income buyers.

Idaho renters looking for homes or apartments aren’t likely to find housing they can afford, a new study shows.

In more than 80% of Idaho counties, renters pay for more than one-third of their earnings, according to a new report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

Statewide, the fair market rent for a two-bedroom home is $804 per month. To be affordable, a worker would have to earn $15.47 per hour. The average Idaho renter household, however, makes just $12.87 per hour, according to the report.

An affordable rent is one that takes 30% or less of a household’s monthly income, said Alejandra Cerna Rios, policy director for the Idaho Asset Building Network. Anything above that would cut into renters’ quality of life because they would have less money to pay for other expenses, she said.

The Boise-based network works to advance policies that support Idahoans in achieving long-term financial security.

In many rural Idaho counties, renters need a wage of more than $16 an hour to be able to afford a place where they’re not paying more than 30 percent of their income on rent.

And that’s not even possible in large counties such as Ada and Canyon counties, where average renters earn $14.64 and $12.11, respectively.

As rents continue to rise, the problem could get worse. The average two-bedroom apartment in Ada County rented earlier this year for $1,344, up 20.2% from 2017, according to an analysis from Apartmentguide.com.

“When communities don’t have affordable housing options, (they) would have challenges fully taking advantage of economic growth,” Cerna Rios said in a phone interview.

Ambulance drivers, bank tellers, child care workers, nursing assistants and several other jobs earn less than the housing wage, which can also have an impact on the community since many of those jobs are necessary for it to function, she said.

A lack of access to affordable housing can also have health effects, Rebecca Lemmons, regional manager for community health and well-being for Saint Alphonsus Health System, said in the news release.

“We see the results of Idahoans increasingly struggling to gain access to an affordable place to live every day as rents continue to be out of reach for many of Idaho’s workers and those with fixed incomes, and it is reflected directly in their overall health,” she said.

Additionally, women and people of color are disproportionately affected by the lack of affordable housing. Seniors and people living with a disability could also be affected because Supplemental Security Income payments are capped monthly at a rate lower than the renter wage.

Wages for Black and Hispanic households are typically less than the prices for a one-bedroom home. The wages earned by white households, however, exceed rent prices for the same home, according to the report.

“Rising rent and shrinking housing inventory are putting hardworking Idaho families in an impossible situation,” Nora Carpenter, president and CEO of United Way of Treasure Valley, said in the news release. “Rent eats first from the family budget, increasingly leaving less and less for food, transportation and other key assets for family success.”

Only one in four households who qualify for housing assistance in Idaho receives it, according to the report.

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