59 Minute Meeting Recap: Is Affordable Housing Becoming a Crisis in the Boise Metro?

3.12.19 59 Min Meeting ImageThank you to everyone who attended our first 59 Minute Meeting of 2019, which posed the question, “Is affordable housing becoming a crisis in the Boise Metro?” Our panelists included Wyatt Schroeder, Director of Community Partnerships for the City of Boise; Vanessa Fry, Research Director at the Boise State University’s Idaho Policy Institute; and Margaret Carmel, journalist at the Idaho Press.

Wyatt Schroeder began the conversation by asking the group for input on the purpose and definition of a home. As the former Executive Director of CATCH Inc., an organization that assists the needs of the homeless population in Boise, he brought a unique and important perspective on the importance of having a home. He walked through basic definitions of what affordability looks like by using its practical definition (at or below 30% of one’s income is deemed affordable).

This year, the City of Boise is rolling out a program called Grow Our Housing, which has several components to increase the housing supply in the city and stabilize pricing. The first proposal of this plan is to ease the restrictions on Accessory Dwelling Units so homeowners can easily add another unit on their property, thus creating new housing inventory options (which was endorsed by BRR as an important and necessary change to help address housing inventory). The other policy proposals for Grow Our Housing haven’t been officially released yet but they will include a housing land trust, housing incentive packages to get builders to include affordable units in their plans and zoning changes. Wyatt also announced that he will be facilitating discussion groups around the city to get more feedback on these and other possible proposals to add more affordable housing.

Vanessa Fry from Boise State University followed up with a deeper analysis on housing options in the region. As an expert in this field of study, she emphasized the importance of making data-driven decisions that will benefit the community. She highlighted how our current zoning designations are impacting cities, and how other options might be necessary and worth exploring while encouraging discussion on reviewing current zoning designations and identifying ways to be more efficient and forward thinking. Vanessa also spoke about the need for a housing needs assessment tool to help Boise and other cities future proof their strategies for affordable housing.

Margaret Carmel discussed a story she recently wrote that compares the different steps that Minneapolis and Boise have taken to address affordable housing. Minneapolis has unique and different resources that impact how they approach affordability, and has created a housing land trust with a program that pumps $40 million into support for renters and will soon require developers to include affordable units. They also have eliminated single family zoning within the city which they believe will encourage denser and more affordable housing.

Boise is proposing different measures to address the same growing issue of affordability and housing supply. It will be interesting to see how the two cities compare as both strategies progress over the coming years.

For those that were able to join us, thank you for attending our first 59 Minute Meeting of 2019! We have many exciting and important topics planned for the rest of the year, so keep your eye out for details on our next meeting!