Downtown Boise construction

A crane stands over a construction site along Grove Street between Fifth and Sixth streets in downtown Boise, Friday, Oct. 9, 2020.

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BOISE — In the City of Trees, developers who build affordable housing are granted “relief” on impact fees associated with the new construction. The city council unanimously adopted an ordinance Tuesday that clarifies how that relief is covered.

The ordinance shifted language from impact fee “relief” to an impact fee “exemption” even though it’s been a full exemption the whole time. Since developers wouldn’t be responsible for paying impact fees if they build affordable housing, the ordinance makes clear that money from the city’s Housing Incentive Program will make up the difference, rather than the general fund.

State law allows for impact fee exemptions if developers are building affordable housing, but the money for “system improvements” must still be provided. Previously, Boise handled these situations case by case, so the new ordinance better spells out where the money is coming from.

“(I) appreciate the financial structure that this is built on which is to exempt the development impact fees, but then for transparency sake, take those fees from our housing fund,” said Councilwoman Holli Woodings. “I think that adds that extra level of transparency that our citizens have come to expect. And I hope it goes very far in some affordable housing.”

Councilwoman Elaine Clegg said she thinks the impact fee exemptions will work, and that it’s worth incentivizing more affordable housing.

Developers of new homes and commercial buildings pay impact fees to municipalities to help cover the cost of expanding services to meet the needs of the growing population.

Boise charges developers anywhere between $380 and $3,380 per dwelling unit of new residential construction based on size and location, according to a November article in the Idaho Press. Impact fees can grow quickly if, for example, someone is building 100 units.

Boise’s affordable housing impact fee relief program went into effect in 2017.

“This council and our office really values bringing as many tools to the table as possible,” Boise Mayor Lauren McLean said, “and this was one of them we’re excited to see work.”

Paul Schwedelson covers growth, Nampa and Caldwell. Follow him on Twitter @pschweds.

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