Last week, Northwest Real Estate Capital Corp. broke ground on Colorado Gardens, a 50-unit development that will provide new affordable senior apartments at Amity Avenue and Elder Street in Nampa.
This is terrific news, and we applaud the developers and the city of Nampa for making this happen.
Now, let’s do more of this. We’re going to need a lot more than just 50 units.
As reported this fall in the Idaho Press-Tribune, Canyon County has a 0 percent vacancy rate for affordable housing, and it would take 4,700 units coming in to meet the existing demand. But a federal tax credit provides funding to build about 215 units across the entire state each year.
This means that almost every affordable housing provider in the state has a long waiting list. Nampa Housing Authority Executive Director Andy Rodriguez told the Press-Tribune 530 people are on the authority’s waiting list as of late July. Many sit on these lists for years hoping to find an affordable place to live.
Housing inventory is at historic lows in the Treasure Valley, and house and rent prices continue to rise. With more people discovering how great it is to live in the Treasure Valley and Idaho, the pressures on housing are only going to increase in the next few years.
We encourage city councils, particularly in Nampa and Caldwell, to encourage and approve developments like Colorado Gardens. In addition, we’d like to see more apartments and multi-family housing projects being approved in Canyon County in general. Increased supply will help alleviate demand and help stabilize prices for those looking for affordable housing.
This is not just a problem for those folks who can’t find affordable housing. It affects everyone, from businesses to government. If local residents are spending too much of their income on housing, that leaves less money to participate in the local economy, whether that’s going out to dinner at a local restaurant or buying a new car. Residents who spend too much on housing have more trouble paying their water bill or their tax bill. Further, the United Way of Treasure Valley estimates there are as many as 4,000 homeless students in the Treasure Valley, with 1,400 of them in Nampa.
We call on the cities to do everything in their power to increase the affordable housing stock in Canyon County, before we get to a crisis situation. Some would argue we already are in a crisis.
We would encourage cities to look at using infill development for high-density housing and to work with the Nampa Housing Authority and Caldwell Housing Authority on projects that help get residents the housing they need.
We encourage the cities to look at developing more mixed-income housing units, as well. Data show mixed-income housing has successfully contributed to more diverse and stable communities because every unit isn’t assisted housing.
Our downtowns would also be a good place to build high-density and rental units. Younger residents just out of school are looking for affordable places to live, and they are often drawn to downtowns, where there are more amenities, like coffee shops, bars and restaurants. Nampa and Caldwell should leverage their downtowns to attract younger people with affordable housing options.
With incentives from the Idaho Housing and Finance Association, such endeavors can be more lucrative for developers.
Finally, cities should be looking at using urban renewal dollars for affordable housing projects. Turning areas of blight into shiny new affordable housing units seems to us to be the exact intent of urban renewal laws.
Cities have a golden opportunity right now to attract new, young residents, use urban renewal to eliminate blight, encourage infill development and improve their downtowns, all while helping to solve the Treasure Valley’s affordable housing problem. Cities should be seizing that opportunity with everything they have at their disposal.