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Density and infill: The future of building in Boise

Infill means building up and on empty lots or old developments, and it's critical to density. As Boise runs out of space to build on many say density is a necessity.

BOISE, Idaho — Is density our destiny?

Density was a major theme in last week's hearings on Boise's zoning code rewrite. In city planning terms, density just means more houses, apartments, duplexes, or businesses on a smaller footprint; the advantage is you don't have to stretch your infrastructure out nearly as much, but you may have to update it.

Infill is critical to density. Infill means building up and on empty lots or old developments. Many community members say it's become a necessity, as we're running out of new ground to build on. 

But according to Debbi Myers, President of Boise Regional Realtors, there's also a growing demand for smaller homes with less maintenance or apartments with no yard to take care of.

"I know that for some people infill is a hot-button word," Myers said. "But it's done beautifully in so many neighborhoods around Boise. And there are some great examples of how that has made more efficient use of the existing infrastructure. Because people are not looking for great big lots. They're able to build 15 homes where three homes used to be because people don't need that great big yard, that quarter acre lot."

As with anything, infill needs to be focused, so you're not bulldozing places that people truly enjoy. That's folks' major fear, it seems, with growth overall: not what we're getting, but what we could be losing. 

According to Myers, that's why the work the city has done to conserve the open spaces, in spots like the foothills, is so critical.

"We have done a much better job than lots of other areas have in protecting our foothills and in making sure that open space stays open space for all for future generations," Myers said. "So that we don't just have massive developments on the hillside and ruin what a lot of us really love about Boise. And in order to accomplish that, those homes have to go somewhere. And so, infill helps to protect those outlying areas that we all enjoy."

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