Stapilus: Housing may be inexpensive | information

Ask people about the real-world problems hitting them hard, in Idaho and nationally, and it won’t be long before you learn about affordable housing.

The gap between the cost of housing – to own or rent – and what most people can afford is growing almost incredible. In theory, the market should cover that: by and large, what people can afford should at least roughly match what is being charged. But if the average price of a Boise home for sale is $ 523,250, how many people can buy it? And if they can’t, where will they live? As I’m sure you know, rentals are no better: the median price there is $ 1,303 a month.

The reasons for this are many and complex, and the limited supply is only one cause. (Speculation and commodification in real estate are among the other topics I’ll come back to in a few weeks.) There is no one-shot solution. But there are useful patches that help and improve the situation, some of them in the realm of state government.

In the Idaho case, that’s kind of because the Idaho Housing and Finance Association has some public aspects (the governor appoints his board of directors, for example) and some private aspects (it does not get money from the state but from the federal government). Government). It describes what it does: “Idaho Housing’s mission is to provide funding for affordable housing in Idaho communities where it is needed most and when it is economically feasible.”

Finding money to actually do that is another matter. The association provides help for home buyers and builders wherever it can. But Idaho’s resources are more limited than almost any other state. Almost all states have housing trust funds, but unlike Idaho, almost all of them have funds invested. As reported by a national group, “Government housing trust funds raised more than $ 1.6 billion in 2020 to drive affordable housing initiatives in their states. The most common sources of revenue for government housing funds are real estate transfer tax and document stamp tax – used by twelve states and the District of Columbia. ”The Idaho Trust Fund is empty.

A report in the Idaho Capital Sun last week of a new, relatively affordable rental project in Boise outlined the patchwork of resources needed to make this possible. It’s a complex patchwork that probably isn’t easy to replicate very often.

Cory Phelps, Vice President of IHFA, was quoted as saying, “If a developer wants to build affordable housing, they will likely be looking for more resources. We’re getting a little more interest (from developers), but if you’re a developer and Oregon has all of those resources, it’ll be easier for you to get the deal up and running. The more resources you have, the more homes you can build. It’s about finding all the necessary financial components to cover the costs of the project. “

The article then states, “Oregon has a solid list of affordable housing grants and tax breaks and a long list of more than 2,700 developments by county.”

Idaho could do this. Home finance is an area where relatively little expense can have a huge impact and directly improve the lives of many thousands of Idahoans. The state now has massive excess revenue, and relatively small payments – which could be used as leverage – along with some changes in property tax law, could make a big difference.

But the whole issue was essentially ignored in the last legislative period. The Sun reported that the governor’s office was investigating, but also quoted a Boise property developer as saying, “Idaho legislation has a very ill-considered – and, to my knowledge, unique among the 50 states – view of what affordable housing should be for tax reasons. “

It doesn’t have to be in 2022 (although chances are it will). But a serious legislator will not find a complete solution for its constituents, but will find essential help.

Randy Stapilus is a retired newspaper reporter and editor based in Idaho and blogs at He can be reached at [email protected]. his new book “What do you mean by that?” has just been published and can be found on his website.