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The Housing Authority Of Boise City And Ada County Is Looking For Partners For A Long-Abandoned Affordable Housing Project

The Boise City Ada County Housing Authority is determined to construct affordable housing off of Whitewater Park Boulevard.

The affordable housing agency issued a request for proposals in the spring, asking for a private developer to work with on a 3-acre plot on Moore Street to build housing for low-income Ada County residents. The property, which is now zoned for a maximum of 54 units, has been vacant for years as BCACHA has tried to secure federal tax credits to fund a project or gain authority to develop on the parcel it has owned for more than two decades.

Deanna Watson, BCACHA Executive Director, said her group wants to work with any developer willing to try to build affordable housing in Boise to see what kind of units they can bring online at lower pricing. She didn’t have any minimum requirements for the number of units, the sort of design, or any other details yet, but they’re asking for creative ideas from the private sector to get the project started.

Watson described the situation as “a little bit open-ended.” “It’s challenging the development community to come up with their best plan, and the ideal idea would contain a large number of affordable flats.”

The bid process is expected to complete at the end of March, according to the housing authority. The BCACHA board will next review the proposals from qualified developers, rank them, and decide who will work on the project next.

Problems with traffic

For years, Watson and her predecessors have attempted to build dwellings on this property.

BCACHA bought the land between Moore Street and the Whitewater Park Boulevard curve in 2002 with the intention of constructing 109 apartments. The project would combine market-rate flats with Section 8 affordable housing for the disabled, however it was rejected by the Boise City Council owing to traffic concerns.

Whitewater Park Boulevard had not yet been constructed, and Ester Simplot Park was still an abandoned industrial area at the time. This meant that traffic from State Street would have to wind its way through a maze of residential roads to get to the development, including any ambulances serving the tenants. BCACHA has chosen to put the project on hold and wait for a better opportunity to build.

“There have been some starts and stops over the years,” Watson explained, “but we made a strategic decision to stay onto the property while we waited for the connectivity issue to be resolved.”

Is the fourth time the charm?

The land stood empty for fourteen years before BCACHA teamed up with Syringa Housing Corp. in 2016 to propose a 50-unit project with virtually all of the units reserved for low-income Boise residents. According to the Idaho Statesman, the Boise City Council approved the proposal over complaints from surrounding neighbors who claimed the neighborhood was already overcrowded with inexpensive housing.

However, they were not chosen to receive the very competitive Low-Income Housing Tax Credits that the project required to be funded by the US Treasury. Because the Moore Street property is not in an eligible Census tract with at least 50% low-income families, Watson said the project will always be docked one point in the scoring process. The Idaho Housing and Finance Association awards the credits, which are paid for by the United States Treasury.

When BCACHA applied again a year later, they were denied again. Since then, housing development plans have been put on hold, and rents in the Boise area have risen at some of the quickest rates in the country.

Watson now hopes that by working with a developer and enlisting the cooperation of the City of Boise or other entities, the project will be able to get off the ground without the assistance of Washington, DC.

“Whatever comes together will definitely need and try to access federal funds, such as entitlement Community Development Block Grant funds or HOME dollars, to fill in the gap when you know that the cost of development and operation will exceed the income of some of the people we’re trying to build housing for,” Watson said. “You’ll have to come up with a different way to fill that void.”

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