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Viewpoint: How Boise is working to provide more affordable housing

Boise Mayor Lauren McLean discusses the city's projects and initiatives to provide more affordable housing for Boiseans and to house the homeless.

BOISE, Idaho — If you, or someone you know, has bought a house, tried to buy a house or find an affordably priced rental in the Treasure Valley in the last couple years, you know how expensive things have gotten. 

The housing market has been described as hot, with prices soaring, people buying homes well above the asking prices and demand far outstripping supply. However, many might describe the market as humbling. They find themselves being priced out and struggling to find a place to live.

In a news release, Boise Regional realtors said in January 2022 the median sales price for homes in Ada County was $540,000. That's an increase of 20% compared to January 2021.

City leaders, agencies and organizations recognize the challenge and are working to create and preserve more affordable housing. 

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), affordable housing is defined as housing where the occupant pays no more than 30% of gross income for housing costs, including utilities. It's based on the area median income, family size, and rent in the area.

Meridian City Council recently approved a 52-unit affordable housing project at Ustick and Linder Roads. There will be seven buildings with one, two and three-bedroom units with several amenities, including a park and laundry.

The city of Boise is working on several projects and initiatives. Those include the MODA Franklin affordable housing development at the corner of Franklin Road and Orchard Street. 

City leaders and the company behind the project broke ground back in October. Heavy machinery is now moving dirt on the site of the 205-unit project. It will include 66 one-bedroom units, 118 two-bedroom units and 21 three-bedroom apartments. The project also incorporates Franklin Park into its design and includes retail space.

City officials say rents for the apartments will be affordable for those making 60% of the area median income. Boise Mayor Lauren McLean says it's all about Boiseans and Boise families finding homes within their budgets.

"You know this is a great example of the progress that we are making," Mayor McLean said. "This project is part of our Housing Land Trust. There are different incentives that went into it, and then there are requirements for the income levels of Boiseans who can live in this new neighborhood right up against a park."

The city's goal is to create and preserve 2,500 affordable housing units in the city in the next five years. Mayor McLean explained why that is the target number.

"We did a housing assessment recognizing that this is about my kids' teachers, it's about the police and firefighters that keep us safe, the nurses that have protected our health," McLean said. "We need homes for Boiseans, and so we set out to determine how many we needed and at what price points Boiseans could afford. So it's a data-driven process that's given us that bold goal for the next five years."

Construction on MODA Franklin is expected to be finished in October of 2023. It is the city's first Housing Land Trust development.

Viewpoint airs Sunday mornings at 9 o'clock on KTVB NewsChannel 7 right after Meet the Press.

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