City of Boise eyeing expansion of housing for chronically homeless residents on Fairview Avenue

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Nearly a year after Ada County decided to pull its support from the City of Boise’s permanent supportive housing project, the city’s housing team is doubling down. 

Eagle-based developer Pacific Companies, which works on both affordable and market-rate projects, is looking to once again partner with the City of Boise to build more apartments for Ada County’s most vulnerable residents. The company filed early stages of paperwork last month with the city to start the process for 100 additional units on the piece of property next-door to New Path Community Housing on Fairview, where it hopes to bring housing, supportive services and community to those with long-term stints living on the streets of the Treasure Valley. 

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New Path Community Housing was Idaho’s first permanent supportive housing project when it opened to residents at the tail end of 2018. Built on the nationally recognized concept of Housing First, the 40-unit building was built to provide low-cost housing to chronically homeless residents, regardless of income level, sobriety or other limiting factors. Many of New Path’s residents have long-term chronic health conditions, mental illness and are suffering from addiction. 

This building was followed up a few years later with the 27-unit Valor Pointe project, which houses chronically homeless veterans in partnership with the VA. 

Pacific Companies Executive Denise Carter told BoiseDev it is still in the early stages of planning the project and lots of details can change, like the number of units, the amenities of the project and the timeline. She said they have not yet secured financing for the project, which will then determine what is doable and how much the City of Boise will need to contribute to making the project pencil. 

Carter estimated construction will begin sometime next year.

“With housing obviously going the direction it’s going, the cost of it and the rents going up we’re seeing a bigger increase in those that are finding housing more difficult to get and for us to be able to provide this for the city and Ada County as well as Canyon County is a great thing,” Carter said. “Being able to collaborate with all of the nonprofit groups who provide the services, CATCH, Terry Reilly and the City of Boise and Ada County and the Housing Authority, it’s kind of a win-win for everybody.”

Housing First vs. Treatment First 

The idea behind the project is that providing housing to this specific population reduces costs due to fewer interactions with law enforcement, fewer emergency rooms visits, makes more room in emergency shelters and allows residents to improve their well-being with access to in-building counselors and the security of their own home for the first time in years. 

But, this isn’t how everyone sees it. While Ada County was initially a partner on the project under the leadership of since-ousted Commissioner Diana Lachiondo, it has since pulled its financial support from the project in favor of using these funds to pay for three new staff members at nonprofit provider Terry Reilly Health Services instead. Commissioners felt the project only enabled residents in their addiction by not forcing them to engage in mental health programming or seek addiction treatment to stay there, and it focused a hefty chunk of taxpayer funds on only a small subset of the homeless community. 

Boise’s Our Path Home Manager Casey Mattoon said the city aims to provide housing for Boise’s most vulnerable residents, regardless of if they fit neatly into a predetermined box or not. 

“For us, the controversy comes down to are we really saying we are going to provide a home for everyone or not and I think you’ve heard clearly from Boise leadership that people experiencing homelessness deserve a place to call home and they are in need of our support,” they told BoiseDev.

Last summer when Ada County voted to pull its funding for the supportive services offered at New Path, all three commissioners said they preferred an approach called Treatment First to help the chronically homeless community. In the past several months they have held exploratory meetings with the Boise City Ada County Housing Authority and Terry Reilly to discuss the possibility of using federal relief dollars to build housing on the parcel next to detox center Allumbaugh House for people transitioning out of that program, but the possibility is still in development. 

‘A best in class opportunity’

Mayor Lauren McLean initially brought the idea forward during her 2021 State of the City address, but at the time she pitched it as a site to provide permanent supportive housing for families. 

Mattoon said while this was originally their idea, the city decided to stick with using this site for supporting single adults due to the proximity of the supportive services already there for the first New Path project, its walkability and the scale of the project able to be built on the site. Mattoon said this project is part of the City of Boise’s goal to build 250 more units of permanent supportive housing around the city with four other projects down the pipeline. 

This is also on top of the 300 homes campaign to use existing units donated by landlords to house families experiencing homelessness in the city’s campaign to end family homelessness. 

When asked about the city’s thoughts on how expanding New Path to 140 units total would heavily concentrate low-extremely income residents in one area, Mattoon said this project is a far cry from the high-rise housing projects put up in New York and Chicago in the 20th century. He said the supportive services offered in the building to residents free of charge and the diversity of the overall neighborhood, which is beginning to populate with high-end housing, means this is a positive step for residents and the community. 

“The history of housing is really intricate and involves a lot of details, but I think we don’t see New Path part of that negative story,” Mattoon said. “New Path is a best in class opportunity to provide more housing…We see this as one part of our expansion of permanent supportive housing at scale.”

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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