We must address our housing crisis. Funding Idaho’s trust fund for first time is a way to start.

It’s time to chart a new course for our state to deal with our affordable housing crisis before it’s too late, writes guest columnist Ali Rabe.

August 11, 2021 4:22 am
A house for sale in the North End of Boise on March 21, 2021.

A house for sale in the North End of Boise on March 21, 2021. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)

Idaho continues to make national news for its booming real estate market as people flock to the Gem State in droves, causing home values and rental costs to skyrocket. 

As a result, people who’ve lived here for generations are being forced to move to other states. In some cases, Idahoans are losing their housing and becoming homeless for the very first time. 

We can’t afford to ignore this growing crisis any longer, especially when mechanisms are already in place to help address the issue. One simple solution is to invest in Idaho’s Housing Trust Fund. 

Established in the early ’90s, the fund was created as a way to support affordable housing developments. At the time, the state was experiencing a similar period of unprecedented growth, prompting legislators to take action. But no appropriations were ever allocated. Without a dedicated revenue stream, the fund cannot be utilized.

If the state put money into the fund – which could be a mix of state and federal revenue – it could be used to enable and empower local governments across Idaho to create tailored solutions to boost housing supply and lower cost for all residents in their communities.

City and county officials are begging for an opportunity like this. I’ve talked with many local leaders about how they would use the fund to boost workforce and affordable housing options and the ideas are endless. Localities could use funding to create:

  • Tax relief  – provide tax relief to homeowners who use their property as their primary residence or leave their rentals in a long-term rental pool. Tax waivers could be used to mitigate supply issues created by short term rentals.
  • Building incentives – reduce impact fees or property taxes for certain developers.
  • Land banks – purchase land to contract with developers to build.
  • Housing preservation – contract with developers to redevelop blight and unused or run-down buildings.

And the list goes on. 

Housing is the No. 1 issue for Idahoans. I can’t think of a better use for the state’s $900 million surplus other or federal COVID-19 relief money other than investing in our serious housing problem. If our government fails to act, the crisis will only worsen. 

You often hear lawmakers say they don’t want Idaho to turn into Oregon, Washington, or California. We are well on our way to becoming like our neighboring states – where tens of thousands of people are living in homelessness – if we continue to do nothing. The mechanism for the fund is already in place; only a funding source is needed.

Contact members of the Legislature and the governor’s office today and ask that they allocate at least $40 million to Idaho’s Housing Trust Fund during the 2022 session. It’s time to chart a new course for our state before it’s too late. Spending millions of dollars now will prevent us from spending hundreds of millions later. 

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Ali Rabe
Ali Rabe

Prior to joining Jesse Tree, Ali Rabe was a staff attorney at HomeBase, headquartered in San Francisco, where she supported local governments and service providers in their efforts to prevent and end homelessness. Rabe is an alumnus of The College of Idaho and holds a J.D. from William & Mary Law School. She also serves in the Idaho Senate.