Boise greenlights cash for Bench affordable housing project in exchange for decades more of reduced rents

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The City of Boise is stepping in with a cash infusion into the affordable housing development at Franklin & Orchard, with reduced rents for a longer period of time in exchange. 

On Tuesday, Boise City Council gave the green light to spend between $1.5 and $2.5 million on its public-private partnership with Salt Lake City-based developer JF Franklin to build a 205-unit apartment complex largely for low-income residents. In exchange for the funds to get the project underway, JF Franklin agreed to keep the rents at affordable rates after the terms of the federal tax credit program powering it expires and only rent to those making less than 80% of the area median income. 

No one at the city council remarked on the vote, but the memo attached to the agenda noted rising construction costs as the reason for the new funding. City spokesman Justin Corr told BoiseDev last month the project is expected to be completed by the end of next year. 

[You Asked: Is Boise’s affordable apartment complex at Franklin & Orchard still in the works?]

How does this partnership work?

This project started in 2019 when the City of Boise purchased the parcel of land on the corner of Franklin Road and Orchard Street to build affordable housing. Once Mayor Lauren McLean took office, she said the project was the kickoff of the city’s affordable housing land trust where the city would use land it owns and lease it to developers who agree to rent units at affordable rates. 

Since JF Franklin was selected for the project, the pandemic hit in earnest, Boise’s affordable housing crisis worsened and construction was delayed. Officials held a groundbreaking ceremony in September, but crews only recently started turning dirt. One boost for the project is in the meantime, it landed a low-income housing tax credit from the U.S. Treasury to fund the development. 

Boise Franklin School site
A box wrap art project on the corner shows a stylized rendering of the old Franklin School, with the empty lot behind it. Photo: Don Day/BoiseDev

For the first five years, JF Franklin will pay the City of Boise $1 dollar per year for its lease of the land. This will increase over time to $10,000 per year from years 6-10, to $15,000 from years 11-15 all the way to $20,000 annually from years 16 to 75 of the agreement.

The City of Boise has several other land trust projects underway, including a project on the site of the former Smokey Davis restaurant on State Street, the parcel of land next to Fire Station 5 and the site of the current Parks and Recreation maintenance yard next to Julia Davis Park.

What will the rents be?

Of the 205 units ranging up to three bedrooms in the project, 184 of them will be set aside for people making less than 60% of the area median income, which is equivalent to less than $31,680 for a single person or $45,180 for a family of four. Rents in the affordable units will range from $778 for a one-bedroom to $1,067 for a three-bedroom. The market-rate units will rent for $1,375 up to $1,850 depending on the size of the unit. The affordable and market-rate units will be identical.

Of the 184 affordable units, 10% of them will be reserved for families exiting homelessness through the Our Path Home program as part of the city’s effort to effectively end family homelessness by 2026.

This will increase after fifty years when the low-income housing tax credit from the U.S. Treasury expires. Then, the affordable units will be open to those making less than 80% of the area median income at that time and the rents will be set at levels determined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which are meant to correspond to 30% of someone making 80% of the area median income’s gross pay. The rents will be the same per tenant, no matter what they make.

This development will also accept Section 8 housing vouchers from the Boise City/Ada County Housing Authority. This program subsidizes the rent of a few thousand Ada County residents every year at privately owned properties owned by landlords willing to participate. Under this program, voucher holders only pay 30% of their income for rent and funds from the housing authority cover the rest.

Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. Reporter
Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. Reporter
Margaret Carmel is a BoiseDev reporter focused on the City of Boise, housing, homelessness and growth. Contact her at [email protected] or by phone at (757)705-8066.

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