Nearly 80% of Boise-area residents surveyed say cities are growing too fast

Local real estate agent says market is ‘chaotic’

By: - April 15, 2021 4:25 am

A house for sale near the Boise Depot on March 20, 2021. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)

The vast majority of Treasure Valley residents recently surveyed say the area is growing too fast, and nearly half say the rising cost of homes and rentals is causing them financial strain.

The survey, conducted by the Boise State University School of Public Service between Nov. 29 and Dec. 3, sampled 750 residents of the Treasure Valley. The majority of the respondents came from Ada and Canyon counties, but Gem, Boise and Owyhee counties were also represented.

According to the results, 78% believe the valley is growing too fast, while 16% said the pace is about right. When asked if housing costs were causing financial problems, 53% of respondents said no, while 44% said it was causing “a little” or a lot of strain. However, when those numbers were broken down, they showed renters feeling a much heavier burden than homeowners. Among renters, 81% reported financial issues as a result of housing costs, compared to 33% of those who own their home.

Tracy Conklin, a real estate agent for Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate in Boise, said those results match her opinions based on what she has seen over the past year selling homes.

“(Growth) is at a level that can’t be sustained. Wages aren’t keeping up with it, infrastructure isn’t keeping up with it, we don’t have enough housing,” Conklin said, adding that builders can’t keep up with housing demand and lumber prices have increased. “And there’s no end in sight for any of that, unfortunately.”

Conklin said many of the clients she’s worked with want to move to the Treasure Valley for “political refuge,” which is rooted in more conservative political views surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, gun rights, public health and safety and other issues. In her experience, many people are coming from California, Oregon, Washington and Colorado.

High rents, long leases, low inventory and restrictions on pets are also driving people away from rentals and looking for homes in a market that is already oversaturated with potential buyers. That has made for a chaotic time in Conklin’s career. While people assume she must be loving all of the business, she said it has been a difficult experience. In the frenzy of trying to be the winning bidder, Conklin said people will waive inspections and other standard procedures of homebuying.

“They feel like they’re signing away their rights for a house they don’t even care about because they just have to live somewhere,” she said. “It’s just disappointing. I’ve been selling real estate since 2001, and this is the hardest market that I’ve been in.”

Luke Cavener, who sits on the Meridian City Council, said he wasn’t surprised by any of the survey’s findings. To help address some of the concerns about growing too fast in Meridian, Cavener said the council has been even more deliberative about actions like annexation of land over 5 acres to make sure the neighboring schools could accommodate the estimated number of students that would come with a new housing development.

“We haven’t annexed anything over 5 acres since mid-February,” Cavener said.

Nearly 45% of those surveyed said they think property taxes are too high, with 40% saying they’re about right. When asked what the biggest concern is with regard to property tax, just over 50% said the “unpredictability of tax due to the value of homes increasing.”

Cavener said that was his main takeaway – that the biggest issue identified in the survey is one the Idaho Legislature has yet to address. A bill that would have put a cap on local growth budgets made it to the Senate floor but died by one vote, and legislators have said another similar bill will be crafted with amendments, but that bill has not yet materialized. 

“The concern about fluctuating values and how that’s affecting property taxes tells me people in the Treasure Valley are maybe more educated about this issue than a lot of people give them credit for,” he said.

The full survey results can be found here.

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Kelcie Moseley-Morris
Kelcie Moseley-Morris

Kelcie Moseley-Morris is an award-winning journalist who has covered many topics across Idaho since 2011. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Idaho and a master’s degree in public administration from Boise State University. Moseley-Morris started her journalism career at the Moscow-Pullman Daily News, followed by the Lewiston Tribune and the Idaho Press.