The City of Boise is beefing up it’s affordable housing team.
Boise City Council unanimously approved a change to the city’s budget Tuesday night to add three new positions to the Department of Housing and Community Development. The new jobs will work on the city’s strategy to develop and preserve affordable housing, as well as the on-going effort to address homelessness in the city.
The cost for the three new positions will cost the city an additional $30,000 a year. The city will pay for the rest of the salaries by moving funds for three vacant positions from Parks and Recreation to Housing and Community Development and using an ongoing reserve fund the city started setting aside for affordable housing in fiscal year 2019. Officials left the three vacant positions in Parks & Rec unfilled since May 2020 and the duties have been picked up by existing staff.
What will they do?
The positions include a housing manager, who will oversee several members of the housing team and manage the overall strategy for affordable housing in the city, research new policy tools and evaluate the city’s progress toward goals. The second position would be a project coordinator to work on affordable housing projects, which will help the city get more housing, like the Franklin & Orchard development, up and running quicker.
The third position would be a coordinate to support Our Path Home, the public-private partnership working to address homelessness in Ada County. The City of Boise pays for the staff to lead the partnership, which has 50 different partner organizations, and it is the main agency working on the plan to effectively eliminate family homelessness by 2026.
One administrator currently runs the partnership, but city council approved a second staffer to come online and assist with major projects Tuesday. Housing and Community Development Director Maureen Brewer, who used to oversee Our Path Home, said they need a second staffer to help manage the family homelessness project and ensure the federal COVID relief funds are spent effectively to address homelessness.
“There are things that don’t get done because the administrator of Our Path Home has to be responsible to so many agencies and there’s work left on the table,” she said. “I would like to (the position approved) because it will help us make those leaps and bounds and harness that moment where we have an incredible influx of dollars and we want to put those dollars to their highest and best use so we don’t look back on this moment and think ‘gosh, we missed it’.”
Housing, housing, housing
The city currently has a range of housing programs starting up, some of which began under former Mayor Dave Bieter along with new initiatives and urgency from Mayor Lauren McLean. This includes an affordable housing land trust to develop affordable housing on city-owned land, a housing bonus ordinance and the push to boost capacity in the homelessness services system.
The plan being developed under the campaign to end family homelessness, which will be managed by Our Path Home and its two employees, includes a mix of programs paid for by a roughly $8 million raised through fundraising. It would include funding for more caseworkers to help address the backlog of people waiting for services, rental assistance to prevent homelessnes and strategies to try and grow the number of units already existing in the community set aside for those transitioning out of homelessness.
City Council Member Holli Woodings said she came to the meeting skeptical of the ask for three new full time employees, but after hearing the detailed presentation on all of the workload on the department’s plate she voted to approve it.
“Maureen’s presentation today…gave me the comfort that this is an opportunity for us,” she said. “It’s not that we’re trying to grow government, but we’re going to be able to take better advantage of some of the programs and really help people in our community who have been struggling for a number of years.”