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Housing for the ‘missing middle’: Boise development recognized nationally

One of the Boise-based redevelopment agency’s most recent projects, Ash+River Townhomes, is a finalist for an Urban Land Institute national residential award, which is awarded annually to projects that are deemed exemplary affordable housing solutions. (Courtesy of Capital City Development Corporation).

Local developer says more needs to be done for workforce housing

With no state-level support for affordable housing solutions, organizations like the Capital City Development Corporation must come up with their own developments to fill housing needs, especially for those in the “missing middle” of area median income.

One of the Boise-based redevelopment agency’s most recent projects, Ash+River Townhomes, is a finalist for an Urban Land Institute national residential award, which is awarded annually to projects that are deemed exemplary affordable housing solutions. The criteria for the award include affordability, innovative financing, quality of design, proximity to employment centers and transportation hubs, and involvement of public and private partnerships.

Jordyn Neerdaels, communications manager for Capital City Development Corporation, said the corporation purchased several small parcels in 2006 totaling about .75 acres along the Pioneer Pathway, a walk and bike path that leads to the Boise River.

There are 34 units in the Ash+River development, with a mix of townhouses amid open green space and commercial space that is now occupied by Push and Pour coffee shop.

“The goal was to have the units be that missing middle 80% to 120% (area median income) model with deed restriction for seven years,” Neerdaels said.

That means rents on the development will be controlled according to those area median income levels until the deed restriction is released, at which point it will be open to alteration by the owner.

Local real estate development company deChase Miksis won the project, which was completed in 2019. Dean Pape, partner at deChase Miksis, managed the project and said a development for middle-income workers fulfilled one of his passions.

“It’s an area we’re really focused on,” Pape said. “We like the spectrum, we love doing subsidized (housing) all the way through market rate.”

Pape said housing built for large portions of the Treasure Valley’s workforce supports the needs of the broader community, and it’s a growing problem if market rates continue to increase and there are no additional subsidies for development of affordable housing.

“We’re hearing it in all the communities we’re working in right now,” Pape said. “Teachers, firefighters, support services — they don’t have a place to live. … We’ve had conversations with medical and education (industries) and others in Boise, and they’re all saying the same thing: ‘We’re trying to hire good people, but they can’t live and work in the same community.’”

Historical marker incorporated into Boise neighborhood design

The design of the townhome development is meant to complement the history of the neighborhood and the Hayman House, which is also located on Ash Street. The townhome and the Hayman House are located in a section of town that was considered working class in the 1930s, when it housed about 80 African American families and Asian, Greek and Basque immigrants, according to Neerdaels. Erma Hayman lived in the home from 1948 until her death in 2009.

The development corporation bought the property and has preserved it as a Boise cultural site. Neerdaels said Capital City Development is planning to use it as a space for the Idaho Black History Museum and other interpretive historical events.

Neerdaels said part of the objective of building Ash+River is to capitalize on its catalyst potential, meaning how it can be a model for other similar projects or development in the area. The organization is still accepting proposals for a new project called Block 68 Catalytic Redevelopment, which will consist of a minimum of 225 housing units for a mix of income levels at Jefferson and 10th Streets in Boise.

Local developer says more support from Idaho would increase pace of development

While some affordable housing projects take many layers of financing to put together, such as the Adare Manor development on Fairview in Boise, Pape said this one was more straightforward because it was Capital City Development land.

“It’s purely, ‘Here’s the amount of debt, here’s the equity, and here’s the incentive,’ and the incentive is what CCDC is able to provide,” Pape said. “Usually you pay up front for the ground and development costs, and if you fulfill the requirements set by CCDC, then they pay you the incentive upon completion.”

Pape said he is glad to have a partner like Capital City Development Corporation to complete these projects, but he wishes there was more support from the state to make it easier for developers to take on these types of projects with lower risk. One avenue he thinks would be helpful is to allow tax abatement for an affordable housing project, to freeze the property tax rate to the year it was developed for up to 10 years.

“In Spokane, we’re building a project in downtown Spokane with an affordable level, and the city said, ‘We’ll hold the taxes on the same level they are right now for 8, 10, 12 years, depending on your project,’” Pape said. “… If you’ve met the conditions we’ve asked for, we’ll go back and reassess at that point and the taxes will change.”

Under state law in Idaho, that isn’t an option.

“The tool we have here is CCDC, which is a great way to build product, but it takes some of the controls out of the developer’s hands to do it,” he said.

Pape said he hasn’t spoken with legislators about the issue in a while, but there has been some recent interest.

“But with the other things that are on legislators’ plates, until someone champions it from the inside, it’s probably going to be the same on the state level,” Pape said.

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