Boise explores options for increasing housing to meet demand

Boise Mayor David H. Bieter

BOISE — The cost of housing in Boise and the surrounding area has risen considerably in the last year.

The city saw the cost of a single-family home rise 20.3 percent between April 2017 and April 2018, according to figures provided by Boise Regional Realtors.

Boise City Council members met Tuesday to discuss strategies to handle future growth, the second of four meetings to discuss the rapid influx of new residents and the tools the city could potentially implement to handle the lack of available housing.

Boise is seeing some of the quickest growth trends in the country. With that comes challenges.

Planning Director Hal Simmons told City Council members that a planned community requires “diversity and density” of living options.

Simmons and a panel of others laid out options, broken up into building tools, planning tools and community development tools that can help make housing more affordable and available to would-be homebuyers.

It is, however, an issue that needs to be addressed. Bieter said representatives from other cities such as Seattle and San Francisco have advised him not to make the mistake of growing jobs without growing housing, as those cities did.

“People talk about (needing) affordable housing, but we need housing," he said. "We need more housing, and that will affect affordable housing."

The issue is not a lack of available land. In fact, there is room for an additional 25,000 units on vacant land within city limits, Simmons said.

The city is divided into 24 zones, most of which allow some form of residential development. Eleven of those zones allow for high-density residential development, he said.

“There’s a lot of opportunity for high-density housing without rezoning existing properties,” Simmons said. “We have a long history of underbuilding our zones."

According to the city’s Housing Strategy Workbook, the city is expecting roughly 50,000 more residents in the next 20 years, which will require around 20,000 more residences.

Council President Pro Tem Elaine Clegg said she believes that estimate to be conservative and Boise will likely need closer to 40,000 more residencies in 20 years.

While home prices are increasing, the number of houses sold has declined this year. As of April, 391 single-family homes had sold in Boise this year — a 14.8 percent decrease from the same time period last year, according to Boise Regional Realtors.

No date is set for the city’s next meeting on growth, but it’s slated for June or July and will cover the tangible strategies the city can take going forward.

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