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Must a home be a big house with a big yard? Many in Treasure Valley can't afford or don't want that

As the area becomes more crowded, a Nampa Realtor and an advisor to Boise's mayor agree: A changing mindset on housing may help.

BOISE, Idaho — House prices in Idaho have spiked more over the past few years than in any other state. That means it's tougher than ever for folks to buy homes. And while local government, homebuilders, and developers are working to build more affordable housing, something as simple as changing mindsets could also be a huge help.

Home prices in Idaho are dipping right now, but the long-term trend is still a major spike in prices. In fact, according to Zillow data, Idaho has seen the nation's highest rate of housing price increases by far. The average home in Idaho now goes for $429,606. That's up 91.9%, almost double, in the past five years. The next closest state was Montana, but they're 12 points behind Idaho at 79.4%. At that rate, it's nearly impossible to keep up and make sure everyone has an affordable house, but it is possible to make sure everyone has an affordable home.

"I do think that we need to open up our minds a little bit," said Tracy Kasper, a longtime REALTOR® from Nampa and the 2023 National Association of REALTORS® President.

Kasper grew up around here when a “home” was a 2,000-square-foot single-family house on an at least a quarter acre. There's just not room for a bunch of those anymore, and if you find one, it's going to cost you.

But Kasper says that's fine, because the old mindset of what a home is and what people want to buy now, are very different.

"We have baby boomers, and we have millennials. They're our biggest two buyer pools right now. And they're interestingly looking for similar product: small footprint, drop the keys on the weekend, go play," Kasper said. "So, those millennials are not necessarily looking for the 2,000-square-foot single-level on an acre. They don't want to take care of it. They want to go. They want to travel. They want to do other things. So, there's an opportunity there to really satisfy an appetite of, again, two of our largest buyer pools."

Nicki Hellenkamp, housing advisor for Boise Mayor Lauren McLean, sees a change in mindset too. We've all seen a lot more apartments going up all over, along with townhomes and duplexes. Also, the City of Boise got a ton of interest in their Accessory Dwelling Unit -- what some people call mother-in-law units -- and Tiny Home Pilot Program, to bring much smaller homes to people's yards and the city's empty fields.

"I think we're already seeing an enormous amount of interest from our community in rethinking what housing means and what like you said what a home means," Hellenkamp said. "And so, we want to continue to do things like explore different housing typologies, think creatively about how we can use ADUs and tiny homes, other types of housing."

Hellenkamp added that may be different from the type of home traditionally seen in the Treasure Valley, but she believes changing our mindsets on what a home means can help the entire area grow smarter to help everything from affordable housing to traffic.

"If we continue to grow as we have been growing, we'll get more of what we've been getting, which is sprawl and traffic," she said. "And so if we are going to look to do something different, and look to have walkable, vibrant communities, the only way we do that is by thinking about other housing types, thinking about townhomes and duplexes and ADUs, and really being able to bring all of our creativity to bear when it comes to what we need to do to have the community we want to have, which is one where everyone who makes our community what it is, can have a home here."

The City of Boise also says it's working to expand affordable housing and improve transportation with its zoning code rewrite. Critics of that rewrite say it will just push out older homes. We'll take a look at that next week on Growing Idaho.

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