The Boise City Ada County Housing Authority isn’t giving up on building affordable housing off of Whitewater Park Boulevard.
This spring, the affordable housing agency put out a request for proposals looking to partner with a private developer to build housing for low-income Ada County residents on a 3-acre parcel on Moore Street. The property, which is currently zoned for a maximum of 54 units, has sat vacant for years as BCACHA struggled to land federal tax credits to fund a project or get approval to build on the parcel it owned for two decades.
BCACHA Executive Director Deanna Watson said her organization wants to partner with any developer willing to try and build affordable housing to see what sort of units they can bring online at reduced prices in Boise. She didn’t have any minimum specifications on the number of units, the type of design or any other specifics yet, but they’re hoping the private sector will come with creative ideas to get a project rolling.
“It’s a little bit open-ended,” Watson said. “It’s asking the development community to come up with their best idea and the idea that’s best would include a number of units that are kept at an affordable rate.”
The housing authority is expecting the bid process to close at the end of March. From there, the BCACHA board will study the proposals from qualified developers, rank them and decide who to move forward with to work on the project.
Watson and her predecessors have been trying to build housing on this land for years now.
BCACHA purchased the property between Moore Street and the curve in Whitewater Park Boulevard in 2002 with the hopes of building 109 apartment units. The project would be a combination of market-rate units and Section 8 affordable housing for disabled people, but the project got the thumbs down from Boise City Council due to traffic.
At the time, Whitewater Park Boulevard had not been built and Ester Simplot Park was still an abandoned industrial area. This meant traffic to get to the development, including any ambulances serving the tenants, would have to wend their way through a maze of residential roads from State Street. BCACHA decided to sit with the project and wait for a better time to build.
“There have been some starts and stops through the years, but we made a calculated decision to hang onto the property while we were waiting for the connectivity issue to be addressed,” Watson said.
Fourth time is the charm?
The property then sat vacant for fourteen years until BCACHA partnered with Syringa Housing Corp. in 2016 to propose a 50 unit project with nearly all of the units set aside for low-income Boiseans. Boise City Council gave this project the go-ahead, despite objections from nearby neighbors who said the neighborhood was already oversaturated with affordable housing, according to the Idaho Statesman.
But, they were not selected to receive the competitive Low-Income Housing Tax Credits from the U.S. Treasury the project required to fund it. Watson said because the Moore Street property is not located in a qualified Census tract where at least 50% of the households are low-income, the project will always have one point deducted in the scoring process. Although the credits are paid for by the U.S. Treasury, they are awarded by the Idaho Housing and Finance Association.
This led to another denial a year later when BCACHA applied again. Since then, the plans for housing development have sat on a shelf and rents around Boise have rose at some of the fastest rates in the nation.
Now, Watson is hoping by partnering with a developer and hoping for partnership from the City of Boise or other entities, the project can get off the ground without any help from Washington DC.
“Whatever comes together will definitely need and try to access the funds either the city has that are federal, like the entitlement Community Development Block Grant funds or HOME dollars, to fill in the gap when you know that the cost of development and the cost of operation are going to exceed the income of some of the folks we’re trying to build housing for,” Watson said. “You have to find another way to fill that gap.”