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'Something needs to be done': Homeless facing long wait for affordable housing in Ada County

The program director of Our Path Home said the waiting list continues to grow because of a lack of affordable housing inventory.

BOISE, Idaho — A year or more. That's how long some people could be waiting to get help from local agencies that aid the homeless community in Ada County.

The reason for the long wait is low inventory, according to Sara Busick, program director for Our Path Home, a public-private partnership that works with 40 agencies to address homelessness.

Ada County has a shortage of affordable housing, which has been shrinking in this population boom.

“There's just not inventory, we have a lot of property managers who previously used to take vouchers,” Busick said.

Those property managers no longer need the subsidized vouchers because they now have a long line of people willing and able to pay fair market value for the same unit.

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This is causing the list of people who need help from Our Path Home to grow longer and longer.

"I currently have about 300 people on my wait list,” Busick said.

That number is just for one of the services that she oversees - a program serving people who have some sort of disability, or who are defined as chronically homeless by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Another problem is senior citizens being priced out of their homes.

"We're seeing a lot of people come in that were for all intents and purposes very stably housed for the last 10 or 15 years,” Busick said. “They were on a fixed income making about $771 a month.”

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The problem has only gotten worse in 2019.

 “They were stably housed in these subsidized units, but what happens is that those subsidized units only keep those subsidies for about 15 years before they no longer have to provide that subsidy,” she said.

One solution is to build more units throughout the Treasure Valley - something like Adare, a new housing complex, that offers affordable options based on income. Home Health Connect had two units dedicated to them, but two units won't solve the problem.

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Mayor-elect Lauren McLean said on election night that she plans to tackle the affordable housing issue when she takes office.

"Of course, in the first 100 days I want to work with a housing task force to come up with some solutions or policy ideas,” McLean said. “That we can put in place or share with the public to get feedback on to see if we can more urgently address affordable housing.”

In the meantime, Busick will have to keep trying to help the people she and her office are able to.

“I'm constantly sitting with people who are crying and have nothing to do but sleep in their cars or sleep next to the river," she said. "I know something needs to be done."

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