As we start 2022, everyone’s eyes on the Treasure Valley remain fixed on what growth will bring. After two unprecedented years in 2020 and 2021, what will happen in 2022? Here’s what we have our eyes on at BoiseDev and Idaho First.
Housing prices and rental rates
Two things underpin our local economy: how much it costs to live here, and how many people are employed, and what their salaries look like. In the last two years, as we’ve documented regularly – the price of housing has boomed. Not just what it costs to buy a single-family home, but what folks have to pay to rent an apartment, condo or house.
The metrics are sobering. Before the COVID-19 pandemic began to impact Idaho, the median price of a home in Ada Co. stood at $366,995 – while in Canyon that median home sold for $272,490. The latest data shows prices went up by more than 40% in both counties in the space of less than two years.
On the rental side, prices were going up faster than anywhere in the country for a time. While that appears to have flattened out somewhat, the average apartment now costs much more than it did in 2019.
Throughout the summer and fall, the housing price curve flattened – and signs are that the real estate market isn’t nearly as blisteringly hot as it was. But the question on the minds of political leaders, buyers, sellers, and others is what will happen come spring. Idaho grew faster than any state in the country in the period that ended in July according to the US Census. But data from real estate brokerage Redfin show the net migration slowed a bit in 2021 over 2020.
While some leaders in the Boise metro have worked to get and touted national news stories on moving to Boise, lately the headlines have focused on how unaffordable it is to live here. For years, people would say “the secret is out” about the Boise metro. But is a new “secret” getting out? The secret that housing prices are jumping while wages are struggling to keep pace? And will that have any impact on the hot growth rates? It’s a set of big unanswered questions as we move into 2022.
Jobs and wages
Back in 2020, BoiseDev’s Margaret Carmel wrote a piece I think about often. It plotted two lines on a graph over the past ten years for Boise. One: the average median income for a family of four. The other, the median price of a home.
As you can imagine, the home price line was going up quite a bit, while the median income was going up — but not nearly as fast. It helped illustrate the gap in housing affordability.
As I was preparing this story, I wanted to update that graph for 2021.
It shows that dramatic spike in prices. And while the average median income has grown — it didn’t do so at the same rate as the housing market. Because the graph puts the two lines on the same scale, it can be a bit dramatic from a visual standpoint. But the raw math shows the mismatch:
- Median housing price up 38% (June 2020-June 2021)
- Four-person median income up 25% (June 2020-June 2021)
We’ve clearly seen wage increases due to a tight labor market. The banner on any local grocery or fast food location touting starting wages in the mid-teens is an obvious sign — but some large employers are quietly handing out cost of living increases as well. But the affordability problem will persist as long as wages and housing costs aren’t in sync — and as long as we have a large influx of people looking to move here and not enough places for them to live.
Politics and growth
At BoiseDev, we don’t cover the broad strokes of Idaho’s politics – except where it interacts with growth: land use, property tax, and municipal governments.
In 2022, the state will hold elections for all statewide offices, with primaries in May and the general election in November. Much of the action will happen this spring in advance of the Republican primary, as contenders for governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general look to shape Idaho in coming years – and will see voters pick between two flavors of Republicans – ones closer to the middle and ones further to the right. The decisions in the primary are often final as the state hasn’t had an elected democrat in statewide office in several years.
Redistricting will shuffle the Idaho legislature, with some officials forced to run against colleagues, while other districts will have open seats. Our colleague Betsy Russell at the Idaho Press looked at some of the dynamics in November. A series of lawsuits winding their way through the Idaho Supreme Court could also change this calculus before the primary season.
At the county level, the seat of commissioner Kendra Kenyon will be up for election as well as the seat held by Rod Beck. Kenyon is a Democrat and Beck is a Republican – voters could tilt the commission to the left, to the right – or keep the status quo with a spilt decision.
What will go up?
If you look at the BoiseDev Project Tracker, you’ll see many projects proposed or ready to go – but construction costs and other factors have meant we didn’t see many start construction in 2021.
In Downtown Boise, a slew of projects are approved or nearing approval and could begin this year. The ICCU Building by BVA at 4th and Idaho, The Ovation by Hovde Development and the 12 and Idaho Apartments by Oppenheimer Companies could all break ground this coming year. Several other high-profile projects are percolating, as well as shorter-but-also-significant apartment and hotel concepts across Downtown Boise.
We could also see new announcements on retail at Orchard Park, restaurants at Eagle View Landing, new tenants at Boise Towne Square, additional development in Meridian — and… yes… maybe a timeline for In N Out.
- Additional housing units could help ease some of the housing crunch – but developers, from single-family to those hoping to construct 20-story buildings are all watching supply chains and the cost of materials. Recent reporting from the Wall Street Journal indicates lumber prices continue to soar – a key element in just about any construction project. Added to continued concerns about labor, and building new projects continues to see prices rise, which can change the math on a project and quickly tip it from feasible to unworkable.
- How will the omicron variant of COVID-19 ripple across the Treasure Valley? The situation nationwide with the omicron variant of COVID-19 has sent football games into cancellation, employers again delaying return to work and lots of questions. The impact on Idaho, which has trailed the rest of the nation in most metrics, could add uncertainty for a third calendar year.
- We’ll keep a close on the Interfaith Sanctuary shelter on State St. in Boise. After nearly a year, the long process of approving – or not – the shelter, will continue through much of the year. The new year will start with a possible decison on Monday January 3rd from Boise’s Planning & Zoning Commission.
- The dynamics of climate change and other environmental concerns continue to grow. From dropping well water levels to climate goals to even the role it could play in statewide politics, it’s increasingly a component of covering growth.
- What will happen to the McCall endowment lands? A court case by Trident Holdings over the Idaho Dept. Of Lands’ rejection of Trident’s land swap application continues to move through the courts. Plus, a different swap, with the US Forest Service, could put the land in federal hands. Decisions could come down this year.
- The unknown! A crystal ball look at any year will never be accurate. There are stories – big ones even – that will pop up that we can’t even fathom right now. But our goal at BoiseDev is to follow the story, bring you the facts and help put good information out.
Here’s to 2022!