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Rent.com: 3 percent of Boise rentals cost less than $1,000 a month

The average income per capita is $37,333 in Ada County, according to the US Census. Financial experts say that's enough to afford about $935 a month for rent.

ADA COUNTY, Idaho — Ada County is the most unaffordable housing market in the United States relative to local wages, according to a recent report by personal finance website MoneyGeek.

The continuous upward trend in Ada County's housing market has forced many people stuck renting for longer than they originally intended.

David Garrison, for example, moved to Boise in 2013 to attend Boise State University. He hasn't left the City of Trees since and considers Boise his home.

But he can't find a house to fit the same bill; as he's stuck paying a rent bill and has quite literally lived paycheck-to-paycheck at times.

He works a full-time job and lives with two roommates.

"I thought we were in Boise, not San Francisco," Garrison said. "I definitely rely on [my roommates] to keep the price of living down for myself and for my life. But no, I could not afford to not have roommates right now."

The average income per capita in Ada County is $37,333, according to the most recent US Census numbers. No more than 30% of income should go toward the rent bill, according to financial experts. This means the average person in Ada County can afford around $935 a month.

More than half of Boise rentals go for more than $2,000, according to numbers from Rent.com. Only 3% of rentals cost less than $1,000 - the price point the average Ada County resident needs.

Max Williams, a bankruptcy attorney with Williams Law Group, said there is a growing trend of bankruptcy filings by people in Boise living in homes they cannot afford under loans they should not have been given. These loans are similar to what Williams saw in the 2008-2009 recession.

"The first questions these clients ask is, 'will I lose my home?"" Williams said. "When your money is going to rent, you're stuck. All you can do is rent the rest of your life until you can afford to buy a house, which may never come because the prices here just keep going up."

The median home purchase price in Ada County has reached $575,000, according to the March 2022 Ada County MLS report. Breaking down the report by neighborhoods, the West Boise-Garden City border is the most affordable option, with a median home price around $465,000. The Boise Bench is next in line at $476,000.

"It's gonna hit a wall soon, and it's gonna hurt," Williams said. "I hope it doesn't end as bad as I think it is. But I'm not seeing any measures to stop it." 

These are daunting numbers for Garrison. He still dreams of owning a home in the city he calls home, but he understands he may have to move further west into Canyon County to make that dream come to fruition.

"That's what happens time and time again with our bigger cities. And unfortunately, our Boise, Idaho, isn't a hidden gem anymore," Garrison said. "Potentially there's more affordable areas outside the city."

More affordable options do exist westward from Boise. The median home price in Canyon County was just under $453,000 in March, according to the Intermountain MLS report. However, that's about $70,000 more than the same month in 2021. Areas where the median home price came in below the county median include northwest Nampa, Melba, Caldwell, Parma, Wilder and Greenleaf.

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