MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho —
Idaho’s soaring housing market continues pricing out more and more people. Now, those who serve our country are feeling the pinch. Airmen and their families at Mountain Home Air Force Base (MHAFB), just 44 miles southeast of Boise, are being priced out of a housing market that has historically been affordable.
“I have never seen anything like this, I never expected it to increase our rent, some of the highest has been right here at Mountain Home Air Force Base over the last 4 years,” said Tim Farmer, the housing manager for MHAFB. “The wing’s number one priority, short of keeping the planes in the air, is housing.”
However, available homes on the market in Mountain Home have been few and far between lately. Even fewer affordable homes.
“We have seen rents increase probably around 4 or 5 years ago from 800 dollars a month for a two, three-bedroom house to now it’s going for $1,800, $1,900 up to $2,200 a month for that type of house,” Farmer said. “And our housing allowance for our military members just can't keep up with that growth.”
Rena Kerfoot, a realtor for Mountain Home Pro Real Estate, said the sharp increase is caused by an imbalance of supply and demand.
“Our prices, with the Treasure Valley, we are getting those buyers over here as well because they can’t afford Ada and Canyon County,” Kerfoot said. “Young couples and senior citizens as well, you know the retirees are coming back too, they’re in the same boat too.”
Col. Jamaal Mays, the deputy commander for support, explained why service members and their families simply cannot live on the base.
“About 100 airmen living downtown, should be on base but we just don't have the capacity,” said Mays.
The base is 98% full, and building more homes on the base is not possible. Right now there are 98 airmen on the waitlist, and the number continues to grow. The price for homes on the base matches what the airmen are given in their basic housing allowance, but the allowance is not enough to cover living outside the base.
According to the Boise Regional Realtors, Elmore County saw the highest annual increase since they started tracking the data in 2006. The median home price grew by 32 percent from 2020 to 2021 and remained on the market for just 38 days on average.
“One member has been looking for a house for 60 days and they keep getting outbid and these houses are 10, 15 thousand dollars over asking price,” Mays said.
Mays went on to say that basic housing rates for airmen increased 100% over the last year. Airmen with dependents will also receive 25% more monthly allowance than airmen without dependents, an increase from last year.
Allowance is based on rank and family size. It can range from $1,200 to $2,200 a month, but when you add utilities and cost to commute on top of that, it still isn’t enough.
“Their BAH goes up but then the rents in the community go up and right now we have a supply and demand issue,” said Courtney Lewis, an MHAFB privatized housing resident advocate. “50% of people are not happy where they are living so it doesn’t matter if they are living on base, in Mountain Home, or even in Boise. A lot of times the choice is taken out of their hands because of availability at the time that they arrive here, or the affordability.”
Mountain Home Mayor Rich Sykes, spoke with KTVB about what’s being done to keep the airmen where they need to be.
“We are trying all gambits of housing. Different kinds of formats, different kinds of zoning. We revamped our zoning to make it a lot easier to build in Mountain Home, less expensive and faster,” Mayor Skyes said.
According to the city, Mountain Home has seven new development projects that have been approved.
- Thunderbolt Landing (174 homes for sale)
- Turner House Depot (288 units for sale)
- 8th Street Station (43 attached townhome units for sale)
- The Mitchell Townhomes (33 attached townhome units for sale)
- Silverstone North Division (56 units for rent and 49 single-family homes for sale)
- Paitue Place Townhomes (64 units for sale)
- Leap Charities Project (60 units for rent based on income)
“We are trying to approve these developments as fast as they come in (11:56) we are just trying to tell the construction and the developers, you can't come fast enough,” Mayor Sykes said.
For airmen and their families at MHAFB, more affordable housing cannot come soon enough.
“The more impact there is to a family the less likely we will be able to keep them for their career if they have to deal with every time they move, not knowing how long it’s going to take to get housing, getting their kids back into school,” Lewis said.
The base is also trying to establish a partnership program with property managers that will essentially give airmen the first right of refusal if a property goes up for sale or rent.
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