The best way to address Idaho’s affordable housing crunch may be to put all housing help under one roof.
As housing becomes more expensive while public assistance is less available, putting all help into one agency may be the best solution, said members of a governorappointed task force. That could mean combining help for new home buyers with assistance for low-income families.
“There’s not a magic formula,” chairman and Bannock County Commissioner J.O. Cotant said Monday. “We would like to draw together the different agencies more or less under one agency.”
The 17-member group, composed of state legislators, bankers, home builders, local government officials and bankers, will wrap up its last public meeting tonight in Lewiston then head back to Boise to prepare final recommendations to the governor by October.
For those living in North Idaho, low wages and skyrocketing rent and house payments keep most people under financial pressure, residents told the committee.
“We feel affordable housing begins at base level,” said Alann Krivoe of Rocky Mountain Ranches, a Coeur d’Alene housing development group.
By keeping local and state taxes lower for the developer, those costs won’t be passed on, he said.
“Government agencies are a real hurdle. We constantly fight to keep land prices as affordable as we can,” Krivoe said.
But perhaps what is a bigger battle for most is just earning enough to make ends meet.
With low wages from a service-based industry, people earning the average North Idaho annual wage of $20,860 who pay $600 for a two-bedroom apartment are plopping down a little more than 30 percent of their wages on housing.
In Shoshone County, housing is available, but of a poorer stock. In Bonner County, fewer rental units have caused the prices to soar. In Coeur d’Alene, there’s plenty of two-bedroom housing, but limited availability of affordable one-bedroom housing, said Mary Jo Braaten, Coeur d’Alene branch office supervisor for the Idaho Housing and Finance Authority.
With attendance at the public hearings hovering around 30 participants, committee member Rep. June Judd, D-St. Maries, said she was surprised by the relative lack of interest in Coeur d’Alene.
“With all the grumbling about affordable housing in this area, I’m disappointed in the lack of people coming to testify.”
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