Too Expensive To Live (Work) In Boise?

With daily sad stories about low income folks–many are refugees–being forced out of their apartments due to rent hikes, questions about “affordable housing” are being raised.

Those who are being “driven out” are not the homeless living in tents. They are people who have paid monthly rents at places that are in need of improvements, but with the improvements come increased rent.

It is pretty difficult to tell a landlord he shouldn’t increase rent when there is an apparent shortage of the so-called affordable units on the market. Society certainly doesn’t want to encourage “slum lords,” but the Boise politicos and capitalists want to see the best return on investment which means there is little incentive to build cheap apartments and rent them at a low rate when there is apparently cash to be had for high-end units in the downtown core.

Some random thoughts, questions and observations to kick off discussion:

–Is there any hope to build private low end housing in the 30th Street urban renewal area not subsidized by taxpayers? What about sharing the misery and building low cost units north of the river in the North End?

–The Vista neighborhood and Boise Bench in general have been the dumping ground for refugees and low income workers. Should apartment owners be demonized for attempts to move their property into a higher income bracket? No one seems upset about new apartments and condos in the downtown that start at $300,000.

–Do we need a city mandated minimum wage so workers can afford to work for all the hotels, restaurants, and retailers flocking into downtown Boise? There seems to be cash to construct buildings, but do any of them contain cheap apartments for the worker bees.

–Is the growth and “stimulated economy,” putting a drain on the likes of public housing, the Idaho Food Bank, the long simmering tent city issue of homeless at Cooper Court?

Timing for tenant evictions couldn’t be worse for apartment owners, coming on the eve of Thanksgiving and Christmas.

UPDATE 11/26/15
The STATESMAN’s Audrey Dutton has a STORY explaining one of the major factors.

“According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data for the first quarter of 2015, the average weekly wage in Ada County was $873. In Canyon County, it was $630. The average statewide was $736, compared with $1,048 nationwide and ranking Idaho 50th in the U.S. for wages, ahead of only Mississippi.”

Read more HERE.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Seems this would be a fine time for our elusive Mayor Bieter to step in with a special committee to make sure the faceless LLC corporation that owns Westwood Apts doesn’t create more homeless people in their ruthless pursuit of profits. It really pisses me off that Bieter is only seen riding floats in parades, wielding gold shovels at skyscraper ground breaking ceremonies, and all over the TV come election time.

  2. The poor? Are they poor before or after the $3000/month payments for the upscale bling, optional services, car, and consumer goods? America would be better off without this demographic. Even in good times they still manage to represent drag and leave a trail of bad debt. Their problems emanate from multiple generations of victimhood and bad decisions. Read a sob story today about a guy with a felony DUI. Really, some writer thinks I’m going to feel bad for that guy? If they move from Boise to Seattle, Portland, or LA, it’s a net gain for Boise.

    It’s an excellent strategy to keep Boise’s safety net somewhat less helpful than those other cities. If improvement is made to the local safety net we will get an infestation like those cities have.

    Your worry would be better spent on the taxpayers. The hard working low and middle bracket taxpayer. The people who’ve done most everything right, but are still being crushed. To observe them, look past the low rent district into the suburbs. You’ll see alarming trends of corporate owned rental houses and generation stacking in ~2/3 of the single family homes. Utility bills 300% higher than 15 years ago, lies from the school district, county, and city causing tax increases. The cost of everything needed to live has spiked. They are not allowed welfare. They are paying 300% higher health insurance premiums. These folks have skilled and semiskilled full time employment. Many have advanced educations. Most have kept their nose clean and work very hard. We can’t survive without these people. They are the engine of the economy. Why no tears for them on the newscasts?!?

  3. I saw on the news today one of the local low income housing mavens appealing to Boise landlords to hold the line and even lower their rents. Where does this lady come from? Will the property tax people lower the amount of assessed value and taxes? I doubt it.

    Landlords have no exemptions for what they are charged for property tax and pay the full bore property taxes that amounts to about 2.2% of full market value depending on where you live.

  4. Dave Kangas
    Nov 24, 2015, 6:58 pm

    This is an issue we are going to be seeing a lot more of. Boise has created a quality of life that is in high demand. That means a lot more people moving to the area. The simple laws of supply and demand take over. Rents in the Boise area in multi family units have been very low for many years. If one reviews the active listing for four plexes and duplexes you will see numerous ads with great long term tenants. Tenants that have been paying rent well below market rates due to soft hearted property owner. As these units turnover, the rents are going up and up even without heavy remodels. Due to the shortage of vacant land, some investors have picked up on the idea of remodeling and increasing the rents in order to get the property to cash flow after the acquisition, loan and rehab costs, which is risky. While this is a disheartening trend, many first time home buyers have had to buy in Canyon county in order to afford their first home. Now it is the the renters who will have to move. I doubt there will be many affordable housing projects in the near future. The only way an owner/investor can make them work is with government assistance and its burdensome regulations. Why deal with the issues when the demand for market rent is so high? This is the same issue many resort communities have to work through, affordable work force housing and historically it requires taxpayer assistance or philanthropic donations of land or money. We have seen home prices escalate tremendously the last couple of years, it is only natural that rents will rise too.

  5. The rescue mission needs to b duplicated in a different part of town without the religious bent.

  6. So the city announced that they are spending over a million $ ($150,000 in city funds) on a new bike path on the green belt – – but last week they said they did not have any money for the homeless.

  7. Since Thanksgiving is tomorrow the old relative joke is in order:

    “Everything is relative and all my relatives have all my things. ”

    It puzzles me every time media uses these words in a persuasive piece:
    “livable wage”
    “low-income housing”
    high wages /low-wages
    increase wages

    When media and concerned people use “relative” words it has no value- means nothing- until it is assigned a number and used in a greater context.

  8. “They had better [die] and decrease the surplus population.” – Ebenezer Scrooge

    Oh, wait! If they die, who will change the sheets at the uppity hotels, and make table-side guacamole?

    No easy answers to some of those questions.

    “Not fooled” raised an issue that I find myself thinking about, with regards to the homeless. Does a better “safety net” make for a net influx of homeless, from cities that aren’t as hospitable? I don’t know why it wouldn’t… back in the day, hobos would carve a notch in the fence post of the most generous assisters, so those coming after could likewise take advantage of the offered hospitality.

    Some people bristle at the thought of being “judgmental” about the homeless… but I feel it’s in our best interest as a community to extend assistance to those who genuinely need it, while trying NOT to subsidize the homeless-by-choice demographic. The guy holding a “Will work for food – God Bless” cardboard sign in one hand… and a smart-phone in the other and smoking fancy store-bought cigarettes? I’m reluctant to help that guy.

  9. I agree with Art in his comment. Why do down and out people have to subordinate to religious tenets in order to participate in Charity toward our fellow man. Most of those in the down and out class have a lot of mental and physical baggage not to mention some bad health and habits lending themselves to health issues.

    I would like to see the religious part of helping people be an option and not a requirement. We need to do a better job of helping these people without waving a bible in their collective faces.

  10. Yossarian_22
    Nov 26, 2015, 2:10 pm

    My worry is that Boise is going to try and pursue the San Francisco model of gentrified class cleansing. Every landowner will be made to believe that their property is prime and will hold out for the “deep pockets” that they think will find their little scrap of dirt. For example, on Vista Avenue, there’s a little thrift store called Little House of Hoarders. Lorraine is the owner. She told me that she tried to rent a space just down the street next to Mystique Salon, near Wells Fargo Bank. The landowners told her that they would not rent to her because they were waiting for the mythical deep pocket chains or upper end renter to swoop in and pay for that eyesore. That’s the problem. Those deep pockets see growth in Meridian, not on Vista Avenue. And they would rather pay property taxes than rent and get an income. Or are they getting a discount for not renting? Boise could easily fall into the gentrification trap and working class poor will be evicted out of the city like they are in SF.

    Anyone paying attention to the big picture knows that the government is cooking the books. Unemployment is much higher than they say, the Baltic Dry Index shows that import/exports are the lowest in history and that corporations are buying back their own stock rather than retooling or hiring workers. The retail sector is dying. Only little niche markets are doing anything but you can’t eat niche. Niche doesn’t pay the big bills.

    Re the homeless. I can see that some commenters don’t talk to many homeless. I have and many that are in shelters, actually have jobs. Here is the breakdown of homeless- 1) Vets torn apart by foreign wars 2) Those made bankrupt my medical bills (O-Care doesn’t work), 3) Those thrown out by the housing fraud fiasco and its aftermath, and 4) Those who are mentally damaged or just can’t get it together and other stuff. Broad brushing the homeless as worthless shows ignorance and callousness. There are a lot of people who NEVER thought they would be homeless, that are now. They thought they were too smart to lose it all. They were wrong. I know a former Marine who saw combat in Kuwait and he came home to a family thrown on the street by medical bankruptcy. I know a heavy diesel tow truck driver who works full time and was living in a homeless shelter. I know others who all stayed in Henry Krewer’s old homeless shelter back in the early 2000s before it was closed that had jobs, just no addresses. Go and learn about the homeless FROM the homeless before you judge them all. You will find those who can’t cope and those that are trying real hard and don’t get ZIRP financing from the FED like Goldman Sachs et al can.

    This economy belongs to the rentiers and bankers.

  11. Hope and Change baby! Victimhood is terrible for the soul. And in America is a lie for all but a tiny tiny number of people. Mass victimhood is how incompetent leaders get elected.

    BTW: The Baltic Dry Index is the COST of shipping goods. It’s not an export/import measure.

  12. Yossarian_22
    Nov 27, 2015, 8:28 pm

    Fooled- Yeah…I KNOW it’s the cost of shipping, but you use it to measure what it happening in export/import, just like you use a flashlight to see in the dark. So, I didn’t have to see a dermatologist due to the “burn” you thought you inflicted.

    Victimhood. I know all about this philosophy. Yes, politicians exploit it. Yes, it’s a trap. But that doesn’t mean people can’t be victims. Everyone is a victim of something. You are to. I’m sure you would agree that you are a victim of paying taxes, if you pay them. I know the libertarian creed. But if you are really so incredibly untouchable, due to your own self-perceived Galtness, why are you wasting time reading this blog? Go be a superman and live your supreme life. Why do we matter to you? We’re just victims.

  13. BDI is not as accurate at forecasting the big picture as it used to be.

    As to the authors question. Boise wages suck. 49th or 50th place, but other than gasoline we are the cheapest cost of living of anyplace that has a winter. We are crime free, and winter cleans up our homeless problem by December 1st. If you think it’s too expensive to live here you are out of touch and not understanding why people are flocking to the area. 700,000 and rising.

    Shift your focus. The biggest danger to our good fortune is untouchable politicos with big expensive agendas. They have caused tax increases without wage increases.

    Victimhood. Most people claiming it are frauds. I’m on this blog to protect my country from such frauds furthering their cause through disinformation. People paddle to America through sharks and pirates in rubber rafts. We elected a minority President. Please stop slobbering about being a victim in America. If you want to live like Bill Gates, then you need to contribute to America like Bill did. If you flip burgers, then you get the low rent district. Did a machine bite off your legs at work? Did you have a head injury car crash? Did someone randomly shoot you? If not, you are not a victim.

    Do you know why only engineers get to build bridges? Because burger flippers are too stupid. Does this make the burger flipper a victim? Question is should they be paid the same? What an asinine question. America is such a great and comfortable place it affords us the time to waste on such asinine thinking.

  14. good essay on wage inequality and then Idaho is a right to work state. I was a union member for 22 years and didn’t get rich but live comfortably with good health benefits, tax deferred income and a pension.
    So I am very pro-union. Organize.

  15. Dave and dave

    dave, Idaho will never allow unions, the public was sold the right to work bilge in the 80’s and the powers that be(bankers, ranchers, and mormans) will ensure that Id. doesn’t go union again.


    I will not dispute that the average wage in Boise is 873 a week. I will however guarantee you that the “average” worker in boise makes nowhere near the $21.825 an hour that would make that number the “average”. I will say using averages for wages is ridiculous. As an example the average wage for a BPD cop in 2011 was $76,504.86 or $36.78 an hour.Source
    What is the median wage of workers in Boise, find that number and you will see the health of the work force. It only takes 1 Mark Durcan (micron ceo) $11.4 million or $220,752 per week to skew the numbers. Thank you Dr. Taylor for teaching me that the average of something doesn’t mean a damn thing, no matter what the powers that be want to make you think.

    EDITOR NOTE–Rick and Dr. Taylor, you are correct on median vs average. Ada Assessor Bob McQuade is always careful to refer to the “median value” of homes for the reasons you cite.

  16. fooled… The only thing that is asinine is the fact you believe what you are spewing. God help ya when you wake up.

  17. Thanks rick, your disagreement is the best affirmation of all.

    What is your current or former status which seems to have given you perpetual victim status now? It must have been serious. Were there any real victims involved? And please please find me a country more tolerant of loser status that we are.

  18. I will say this rick. There is an evil profit pact between large corporations, government regulators, courts, political elites, and the lawyer scumbags who protect their organized and immoral abuses of ordinary folks. Unions should be the answer, but if we look closely at unions we find a pack of scumbags abusing their power just the same. The only remaining answer is for the media to do its divine and righteous duty to spread the whole truth and nothing but the truth to expose injustice. They won’t do it though; their lawyers and marketing team won’t let them. Too boring. Too risky.

    rick, you are correct about the uselessness of averages when comparing different kinds of produce.

  19. Eagle Writer
    Nov 29, 2015, 2:59 pm

    Art and Flyhead, it’s a rescue “mission” not a government soup kitchen. Feel free to “duplicate” it somewhere, with your money. Or be thankful for the BRM and send them a check and a prayer.

    A city (higher) minimum wage will increase the problem. Minimum wage is not intended to be a livable wage – it is a starter wage for a minimum employee, one without skills or experience. Raising it simply disincentivises people from getting training or education.

    The same is true for low income housing. Subsidies encourage people to live there and not seek their own way.

  20. I am a Boise native. Idaho is NOT a low cost of living area. We are taxed for everything, housing is high and wages are low. A lot of people I know have moved out of the state and are doing MUCH better, all while making a lot more money. I am headed out of Idaho next year, thankfully. I will be able to afford a much better life elsewhere.

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