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Exclusive poll shows Boiseans concerned the city isn’t doing enough for affordable housing, worried about investors

BoiseDev and Embold Research worked together to craft several polling questions to give a better sense of public opinion on key issues around housing affordability.

The results show broad dissatisfaction with the current situation, and how local officials are handling it.

“Not doing enough”

Eighty-two percent of those polled said they thought the City of Boise was “not doing enough” when it came to making housing more affordable. The poll asked 924 City of Boise and Garden City residents their opinion between May 7th and May 12th, and has a margin of error of 3.2%.

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Embold Research asked a wide variety of questions but worked with BoiseDev to ask several questions we specifically helped craft. Embold is a non-partisan unit of San Francisco-based Change Research. The poll was conducted scientifically, using online-only surveys.

We asked those who took the poll to say what their most-favored solution to build more housing was:

  • 38% said “allowing taller, denser new development downtown.”
  • 24% said “allowing denser, multi-family housing in neighborhoods.”
  • 22% said “incentivize developers to build more housing.”
  • 15% said “expand into open space in the foothills or farmland.”

Embold Research said the results break somewhat along age lines:

“Those aged 50 and older are the most concerned about conserving open space and preserving neighborhood character, while those under 50, especially under 35, are more apt to say the city is not doing enough on housing affordability and constructing new housing.”

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When Embold looked just at those who said the city wasn’t doing enough around affordable housing, the preference in this group was to build up downtown.

“Of those who believe the city is doing too much when it comes to constructing new housing, 52% say the most effective way to build more housing is allowing taller, denser new development downtown, with another 23% choosing allowing denser, multi-family housing in neighborhoods,” Embold said in a memo to BoiseDev.

“Boise must ensure a home for everyone. That’s why we’re working hard to create more housing types, at more affordable price points, throughout our community.” Boise Mayor Lauren McLean said in a statement to BoiseDev about the poll results. “We understand that the community is facing a critical challenge, and residents are grappling with these issues. I share the community’s concern about the lack of housing and I want to assure you the city is working hard to address this issue. Boise will come together around our shared goals, create strong partnerships and find Boise solutions that preserve this place we love so much.” 

Nearly everyone agrees its a problem

Recently, BoiseDev reported that one in five homes in the area is owned by someone other than a primary homeowner, using data from the Ada County Assessor.

Nearly all of the folks we asked about this said it was a “somewhat serious” or “very serious” problem – 92%. Five percent said it was not too serious of a problem, and two percent said it was “not a problem at all.”

Embold Research said this issue stood out among the question they asked.

“Unlike almost every other issue, Boiseans of all backgrounds and beliefs agree (homes bought by non-primary homeowners is a problem) at similar rates across gender, age, race, education, and political ideology,” Embold said in a memo to BoiseDev.

Farmland, neighborhood character

We also asked if the City of Boise was doing enough to conserve open space and farmland. A majority of those polled, 57%, said the city wasn’t doing enough. Thirty-eight percent said the city was doing about the right amount, while five percent said the city was doing too much.

The city got somewhat better marks when asked if it was perserving neighborhood character. Half of all respondants said the city was doing “about the right amount,” while 45% said the city wasn’t doing enough. Five percent said the city was doing too much.

But is the city building enough housing? The results here are close, with 36% saying not enough is being done, 32% saying about the right amount, and 32% said doing too much.

Renters, homeowners diverge

For its generally-released polling data, Embold asked about the most important issues facing the area, and then cross-tabbed the results among homeowners, renters and the general population.

The results show some splits in opinion.

Eighty-four percent of renters said housing affordability is the most pressing concern, far and away the top issue. However, homeowners also selected as their top issue, tied with managing growth – but at a much-smaller percentage, 45%.

Renters said jobs and wages was their second-most pressing concern at 52%, while that ist tied with crime and public safety for the lowest-ranked concern for homeowners.

Lack of trust for officials, media

Embold asked about institutional trust among three groups: local media, state government officials and local government officials.

None of the groups scored highly.

Embold asked “In general, how much of the time do you trust each of the following to do
what is right?”

State government officials saw the worst marks, with a weighted average of 3.2 on a scale of 1 through 10, with 10 being the highest.

Local government officials fared only slightly better, with a weighted average of 3.6. This is below the national average of 4.2, according to Embold.

The local media saw the best rating of the three groups, but still a low mark at 4.3.

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When it comes to planning and development, those surveyed also gave Boise officials lower-than-average marks.

“When asked how often they trust local government in their area on planning and development, Boise residents express somewhat lower trust than adults nationally (3.4 average on a scale from 0, never, to 10, always, compared to national average of 3.8),” Embold said. “Trust in local government to handle planning and development is even lower among residents who have lived in Boise for ten years or longer, compared to those who have lived in Boise for less time.”

Don Day - BoiseDev editor
Don is the founder and publisher of BoiseDev. He is a National Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Stanford University John S. Knight Fellow. Contact him at [email protected].

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