The City of Boise is looking to pick up some new affordable housing for its roster.
On Tuesday, Boise City Council approved the purchase of a mobile home park near Shoshone Park at 2717 W. Malad Street in order, it says, to prevent the low-income residents from being displaced due to development. The agenda item did not disclose how many homes are on the site, but City Council Member Holli Woodings said there are “many” manufactured homes on the two-acre property. The Ada County Assessor lists 24 mobile homes on the site.
“It’s an immediate affordable housing project,” Woodings said. “…We don’t have to build additional affordable housing. It currently produces revenue in the way of rents from folks who already live there and it prevents dozens of people from immediate homelessness if this piece of property falls into private hands.”
The property will be purchased for $3.25 million from the Betts Family Trust. The vote was 5-1, with only City Council Member Luci Willits voting no. The city will now enter into a 45-day due diligence period and closing is expected 90 days later, in July.
City mum on details of sale prior to vote
A reference to the potential purchase of the project first appeared on the March 8 City Council agenda.
Upon seeing that the city was considering buying the property, BoiseDev reached out to City spokesperson Justin Corr and requested an interview with city staff to ask more questions about the purchase and gain potential connections to park residents for a longer feature. Corr told BoiseDev the city would like to wait to discuss the project until the 45 day due diligence period is up, but said “if it does go forward, we would love to talk to you about that.”
BoiseDev once again contacted Corr about the property on Monday, March 14 after the real property purchase and sale agreement popped up again on the agenda, asking if this means the project will be moving forward.
Corr wrote back: “As I understand it, this just starts the 45 day due diligence period,” and offered no further details.
The next day, Willits asked the item be pulled from the consent agenda, which often contains many items the council determines routine and approves with a single vote. That action led to a discussion involving both Willits and Woodings during the meeting. However, full details on the purchase, and how the city proposes to manage it, are not known.
Willits’ lone dissenting vote
Purchasing existing affordable housing is not the direction Willits hopes to go.
She opposed the purchase for a few reasons. She said buying more city property and removing it from the tax rolls will be counterintuitive to the work the Idaho Legislature is doing to cut property taxes by shifting more tax burden onto other properties. Willits also objected because the purchase means “the city could become a landlord.” The City of Boise currently owns and operates more than 200 units of its own affordable housing.
“I don’t believe this property purchase is wise at this time,” she said. “It looks to chase the market that is rapidly accelerating and it seems like we are doing something opposite of what folks are trying to do down the street (at the Statehouse), which is to lower property taxes and we’re taking property off of the rolls that could increase property taxes.”
This type of property tax shift does happen when certain properties are not taxed or have a cap on how much their bill can be, but it takes a large change to make noticeable impacts on Boise’s residential property taxpayers. For example, Micron’s taxable value is capped at $400 million due to a vote by the Idaho Legislature, but the property was actually assessed at $1.86 billion in 2020. If Micron paid property taxes on its full assessed value, the average homeowner in the City of Boise with a $350,000 home would have paid $54.18 less in property taxes that year.
City Council Member Patrick Bageant noted this in his comments in support of the purchase and called on the Idaho Legislature to make changes to the property tax formula to bring relief. He also said the city needs to do its part by addressing its “overly restrictive, overly cumbersome” zoning code to make it easier to build more housing more places to drive down prices.
“In my mind, to tackle this problem we need help from the legislature and we need help with our own codes and our own processes to allow the market to build reasonable and rationale home prices here in Boise,” he said. “I agree with my colleague that property taxes are a big problem, but I don’t see this kind of purchase as a driver of a material effect on that problem.”