2 developments — one downtown, on at Boise shopping center — promise affordable housing



As prices soar, the city of Boise is taking two more steps to build affordable housing — one on a site close to downtown, the other at an aging Central Bench shopping center.

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If built, the two developments, combined with other projects on the drawing board, might provide slight relief to the Boise area’s rapidly worsening affordability problem.

For the first project, the board of the Capital City Development Corp., Boise’s urban renewal agency, voted Monday to solicit requests from developers for affordable apartments on West Idaho Street just west of 17th Street in the West Downtown neighborhood.

For the second, the Boise City Council was set to vote Tuesday on a proposal to buy ground at the Hillcrest Shopping Center for affordable housing. The site once housed a Fred Meyer store, torn down 10 years ago.

The measures are advancing just as home-sales prices set another record and rents keep rising. The median price of an Ada County house is now nearly $410,000 as buyers desperate to find homes pay cash, forgo appraisals and skip inspections. Rents in Boise have climbed 5.5% over the past year, compared with a 1.4% decline nationally, according to ApartmentList.

Here’s a look at each plan:

1. Apartments on Idaho Street

This site is an empty lot at 1715 W. Idaho St. with an old basketball court in a residential neighborhood.

Previously, Mussell Construction had planned to build 17 residential units there, eight of which would have been short-term rentals. He and the property owner secured city approval of the development, which at one point they named Tibbs Condominiums.

But neighbors objected both to the short-term rentals and to the project’s three-story design. A soil analysis showed that low-quality dirt fill on the site would not support a three-story building, said Jordyn Neerdaels, spokeswoman for the urban renewal agency. So Mussell dropped his development plan, and the property owner put the site on the market.

The agency decided to buy it and paid $605,000 for it July 1. The agency plans to publish this week a request for proposals from developers for units that would be affordable to people earning 80% to 100% of the area median income.

The 80% median for one person is $41,920, and the 100% median is $62,880, according to in income-limits calculation the agency is using. For a four-person family, the 80% median is $59,840, the 100% median $89,760. A one-bedroom at 80% of the area median income cold rent for up to $1,196. A three-bedroom could rent for $1,496.

The agency is encouraging, but not requiring, developers to submit proposals with apartments that would serve those renters. A building more than two stories tall would require soil remediation, a job CCDC believes could cost $250,000 or more, Neerdaels said by phone.

How many apartments would be built? That’s not known. Zoning allows up to 16 units on the property, though Mussell had received permission for 18 with a conditional-use permit.

If this project succeeds, agency officials hope it would spur additional redevelopment nearby. A boarded-up house borders the site on one side, a surface parking lot on the other.

The agency board approved a plan that envisioned development starting in 2022, though some board members urged the agency staff to speed the timetable.

“There is a real need for affordable housing, and the sooner we can get these projects underway, the better off we all are,” said Mayor Lauren McLean, who appointed herself to the board after taking office in January.

The agency uses property-tax revenue to offer incentives to encourage building in urban-renewal districts where developers otherwise might not build because of the lack of profit potential.

2. Multifamily housing at Hillcrest Shopping Center

The current owners of the old Fred Meyer site, at the northeast corner of Phillippi Street and Overland Road, considered having apartments built six years ago.

California-based Red Tail Development planned six three-story buildings housing 36 one-bedroom units and 72 two-bedroom units, along with a clubhouse and pool. They were never built.

The site consists of four parcels that cover the former store site and adjacent parking spaces. The owners put those parcels on the market, and city officials tentatively agreed to buy them for nearly $2.5 million, using money the City Council already appropriated for the city’s Grow Our Housing initiative.

The council was scheduled to decide Tuesday whether to make that purchase final, subject to a final property evaluation, with a closing date in January.

The city operates a branch library in the shopping center. An Albertsons supermarket anchors the center.

3 more Boise affordable-housing projects

? The urban-renewal board on Monday also heard a plan to redevelop two properties the agency bought in 2017 on a block between 9th, 10th, State and Jefferson streets near the heart of downtown. These sites, too, might include affordable housing.

One property, at 421 N. 10th St., formerly housed the Idaho Sporting Goods store. The other, at 1010 W. Jefferson St., houses a two-story beige office building with dark red trim.

A staff proposal suggested 100 housing units there. Construction could begin in summer 2022. Some board members said the block, which is across State Street from the Treasure Valley YMCA and near Boise High School, would be a good place for ground-level retailers.

“I do want to emphasize how important it is to the city that we look at a mix of uses here, with as much housing as possible,” McLean said.

? An even bigger affordable-housing project is already in the works on the Central Bench. As previously reported, the city plans to bring at least 210 units, divided between townhouses and apartments, to the southwest corner of Franklin Road and Orchard Streets. As many as 90% of the units may be affordable.

The site housed the Franklin School until the Boise School District tore it down 10 years ago.

? NeighborWorks, a Boise nonprofit, plans to start work next summer on 39 single-family homes — seven detached and 32 attached residences — at the southwest corner of the old Cole Elementary School property, located at Cole and Fairview roads.

NeighborWorks owns 283 multifamily units for low-income families. It has also developed four pocket neighborhood projects in Garden City and two in Boise. A fifth Garden City project is being built now.

Prices have not been set. For the latest Garden City project at 45th and Adams streets, home prices were listed in the low $200,000s.

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©2020 The Idaho Statesman (Boise, Idaho)

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