Survey says more folks want downtown address – Experts: More housing would be good for Boise

A new survey of Boise residents and downtown workers shows significant demand for new housing choices in the city center — something that national experts say is critical to vibrant downtowns.

Capital City Development Corp., Boise’s downtown redevelopment and urban renewal agency, commissioned the survey , which for the first time provides local data supporting the demand for housing.

Brad Hem
The Idaho Statesman

A study done for CCDC last year found that Boise has all the elements to support downtown housing — cleanliness and safety, unique mom-and-pop stores and good restaurants and entertainment. The addition of more housing would take downtown Boise from good to great, experts said.

"It’s critical to have a healthy urban core, or the rest of your city will rot from the inside out," said Clay Carley, a downtown developer and president of the Downtown Boise Association.

The survey results, released last week, come as several developers, including Carley, have downtown housing projects in the planning stages. Also, the City Council is set to consider a change in the building code on July 20 that would allow builders to construct taller buildings with wood frames instead of steel. The less expensive wood would make construction and ownership more affordable.

The survey found that about one-third of one- and two-person households are interested in moving downtown. These people tend to be younger, earn more money and be better educated. Generally, they are interested in living downtown because of its proximity to restaurants, shopping, entertainment and other amenities, which would help them avoid driving.

Those who said they would not consider moving downtown cited cost as the biggest reason. However, more than 60 percent said they could afford a monthly housing payment of between $750 and $1,500. About 25 percent said they would pay less than $750. Carley said the survey results show a gap between what people would be willing to pay and what realistic prices might be.

Respondents also were split on the parts of downtown they’d want to live in. The most popular areas were the "Heart of Downtown" — near 8th and Idaho streets, The Grove and the Statehouse — and Old Boise. But there also was interest in the Cultural District, the River Street area and the Parkside District. Analysts said the variety of interest indicates that a variety of housing types and locations could be successful. Higher-income respondents favored Old Boise while lower-income people favored River Street.

The survey also found that location and price are only part of the picture. Potential downtown residents are also interested in having reserved parking spots, pets, storage space and even gardens and trees.

Pam Sheldon, CCDC planning director, said the agency will take all of these amenities into account. CCDC might be able to help make construction cheaper for developers while providing the amenities. CCDC, she said, could buy land and reduce the cost for developers, could help with building designs, and could pay for trees and parking garages.

CCDC paid Clearwater Research Inc., $41,500 for the survey.

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