Boise Skyline

A view of downtown Boise from the Boise Depot, Thursday, Feb. 7.

BOISE — A majority of Treasure Valley residents believe the area is growing too rapidly, according to a survey completed by Boise State University’s Idaho Policy Institute.

The third annual Treasure Valley Survey, which contacted roughly 1,000 residents in Ada, Canyon, Gem, Boise and Owyhee counties through a variety of methods, found a range of opinions in the region on affordable housing, public transportation and local option taxes. Among the broad range of topics, the shocker to researchers was how quickly the public’s opinion of the area’s population growth has taken a nosedive.

In this year’s survey, 72% of respondents said the valley was growing too quickly, and only 25% said they thought the rate was “just right.” This is a rapid change in attitudes since 2016, when only 50% of the valley were frustrated by the in-migration. Older residents were more likely to be troubled by the growth, with 80% of respondents from 75 to 84 saying the growth was “too fast,” compared to only 66% for residents between 18 and 24.

“This result is pretty consistent across the entire valley,” BSU Assistant Professor of Political Science Jeffrey Lyons said Tuesday at an Urban Land Institute event. 

The ULI is a nonprofit think tank that researches land use, and has offices around the world, including Washington, D.C.

Nearly two-thirds of residents surveyed said they felt so strongly against changes in the valley they would be supportive of the slowing of land development even if that meant a slower growing economy.

Of everyone surveyed, roughly two-thirds of respondents ranked both traffic and affordable housing as “big problems” facing the region. Seventy-three percent of those who answered the survey said the valley needed more public transportation, but a much weaker majority said they would be willing to pay higher taxes to see the system improved.

Roughly one in three residents were opposed to raising taxes of any kind to pay for more public transportation, but there was general support for the idea. While only 10% of residents said they would like to see improvements paid for with property tax revenue, 26% said they would be supportive of sales taxes being used and 19% were supportive of either option.

Despite support for using sales tax revenue to improve public transit, the option of a local option sales tax is not currently allowed in the Treasure Valley. This system allows voters to decide at the ballot box if they would like to create an additional sales tax on their locality to fund projects of their choosing, such as public transit. Only a change by the Idaho Legislature would make this possible.

There might be no momentum at the state level to make this change, but Lyons said roughly 60% of people in the Treasure Valley and statewide are supportive of localities having local option taxing authority.

Affordable housing was another topic addressed in the survey, which simultaneously saw a high number of people concerned about the issue but mixed opinions on how to address it. Of those surveyed, a quarter were strongly in favor of using government funds to build more affordable housing, 28% were somewhat in favor and another 26% were strongly opposed.

Lyons said this shows general support for the idea, but its not a resounding endorsement.

“It’s not a nonstarter,” he said. “There are sizable people who favor these ideas, but it’s probably going to depend on how exactly it's pitched and how people are primed to think about this.”

Margaret Carmel covers the city of Boise. Follow her on Twitter @mlcarmel or reach her by phone at 757-705-8066. 

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