BRR Reports on Boise’s Community Conversation Workshops

Growth imageLast month, the City of Boise held three Community Conversation Workshops to gather feedback from citizens to gain a deeper understanding of residents’ thoughts and priorities on growth; provide context to help update the city’s comprehensive plan, “Blueprint Boise”; and define a path forward that protects those things that make the city special.

You can read the city’s recap here, as the following is a summary of first-hand reports from BRR members and staff who attended.

“What a great event… and opportunity for us to gather the collective ideas of the awesomeness of Boise, and also the concerns about growth,” noted Gail Hartnett with Keller Williams Realty Boise.

Cameron Kinzer, BRR’s Government Affairs Specialist, said, “I’m glad the city officials who put these workshops together used a holistic approach that included discussion on the positive and negative aspects of growth. This exercise helped participants focus on what we value as a community, and what we want the Boise of the future to be like.”

The common themes reported by BRR staff and members were:

What is great about Boise? What are your concerns about growth?
Friendly People/Culture/
Boise is a “Welcoming City”
Transportation/Traffic/Lack of Infrastructure
Vicinity to Outdoor Activities/Greenbelt and Parks Affordability, including Housing
Strong Economy Urban Sprawl/Open Space/Farmland
Safety and Cleanliness Environmental Impact
Access to Elected Officials Need more Regional/Valley Agency Cooperation
Vibrant Downtown More to Boise than Downtown/North End

Dave Ferguson, with Ferguson Realty Group, reported that finding a balance between open space and private property rights was briefly mentioned, but that wages and access to rental housing seemed to be bigger concerns. “When the conversation turned to affordable housing, current wage rates were constantly brought up,” Ferguson reported, and said participants suggested the possibility of “creating private developer and city partnerships to address the rental housing shortage.”

Breanna Vanstrom, BRR’s Chief Executive Officer, said she was “surprised by the support for new housing, both infill and new development, as well as concerns about how divisive the anti-growth sentiment was becoming.” According to Vanstrom, one participant at her table said: “I get why people are frustrated with home prices and growth. I’ve been trying to buy a house for over a year and it’s been hard. But you can’t get mad about affordability, then on the other hand, yell online or at meetings against any new housing development. It’s not realistic.”

The inevitability of growth seemed to be an assumption shared by participants. As one newspaper reporter shared, in a follow-up interview to the workshops: “I think it has been pointed out, (if) you don’t grow, you die.”

The discussions at the workshops echoed this statement, but also expressed a desire for decisions about growth to be made in relation to a coordinated, forward-looking plan adopted by groups across the region. “Now is the time for the city councils, state legislature, and other agencies to come together to create common sense, proactive solutions,” added Kinzer.

More specifically, participants said that they didn’t want to “just build houses,” but rather, “create communities” to support the housing that is needed.

BRR whole-heartedly supports the idea of creating communities and will continue to form policy and promote initiatives rooted in smart, managed growth tactics. Therefore, we will be continuing this conversation with BRR members during the “Getting to Solutions on Community Growth” Listening Session at the Mid-Year Housing Summit on July 19th. If you’d like to be involved, secure your spot today. Seats are filling fast and there are only a few available spaces left.

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