Empty townhomes

The empty Roe Street townhomes subdivision in Northwest Boise in July 2020. 

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BOISE — In Northwest Boise, 22 nearly identical town homes sit empty.

The brand-new Roe Street town homes, off State Street, were approved for 56 units by the city of Boise in April 2017. So far only part of the first phase of the project has been built. They are advertised on project developer CBH Homes' website and have a price of $279,000 elsewhere online; this is well below the median price of $363,000 for a home in Ada County. The town homes are not listed on Zillow as available for purchase.

CBH Homes did not return requests for comment about the status of the project.

Boise has been in the midst of a massive population boom in the last few years, with demand for homes to purchase and places to rent pushing prices to record-breaking heights. Homes below the average price range, such as the Roe Street town homes, typically sell even faster than usual, according to data from Boise Regional Realtors.

Earlier this summer CBH Homes asked city council to grant a one-year time extension on the construction of the second phase of the town homes due to the developer, Corey Barton, “not having the demand he estimated” for the town home lots in the project. Planning documents for the project available on the city’s website say the entire project is set to be 154 units.

City planning staff would not comment on any details of the project or its delay, and pointed the Idaho Press to the planning documents related to its approval on the city's website.

An internal email in February between a CBH employee and a private individual obtained by the Idaho Press said the town homes were not available for sale.

“As of right now, CBH is in negotiations with an investor to purchase everything we've got out there so unfortunately they're not available,” CBH new home adviser Kayti Hallamore wrote in the email.

Under former Boise Mayor Dave Bieter, the city developed its affordable housing strategy called “Grow Our Housing,” which emphasized the need to increase the number of housing units built in the city at all price points to help slow down the rise in prices caused by a shortage of homes.

In the past two years, a total of nearly 3,000 housing units have been built in Boise, exceeding the city’s target of 1,000 units per year. Prices have still shot up.

The North West Neighborhood Association has strongly opposed dense development and the subdivisions cropping up on former farmland on the city’s newly annexed fringe in the past few years. NWNA President Richard Llewellyn said the city has often used the housing shortage as the reason for denser housing like town homes and apartments in this area instead of single-family homes, but an entire neighborhood sitting empty doesn’t do much reduce prices.

“We get lots of developments rushed through, in part with the justification of trying to provide more affordable housing, and if developers are holding their product after it’s already built then it certainly doesn’t do a whole lot to meet that demand at the price people are willing to pay or can pay," he said. “It doesn’t work to stabilize prices.”

A housing market where the power is evenly balanced between sellers and buyers has homes staying on the market for four to six months, according to Boise Regional Realtors Spokeswoman Cassie Zimmerman. Right now, homes of all types priced below $300,000, which the Roe Street town homes were listed as on one site, have 1.3 months worth of supply in the market. This low number strongly favors sellers.

Boise Regional Realtors President Michelle Bailey said even with the pandemic, the demand for homes in Boise has stayed strong. Although town homes are a small share of the market in Boise, Bailey said they are an option to help people get into the market because they are typically lower priced than the average homes in Ada County.

“We need homes at all price points, especially in that $350,000 range,” she said.

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