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Idaho's workforce housing fund is open for applications

A house under construction
Lacey Daley
Boise State Public Radio

Developers in Idaho can now apply for some of the $50 million in a newly-established fund to boost the construction of workforce housing.

The fund was set up by the legislature this year with federal ARPA dollars after a state housing trust was left unfunded for decades.

“It’s the first time that the state has made the decision to allocate funding toward affordable or workforce housing,” said Nicki Olivier Hellenkamp, Boise Mayor Lauren McLean’s housing advisor.

The Idaho Housing and Finance Association is charged with distributing the money. The goal is to bridge the gap between the cost of building and the revenues from rents low and middle income households can afford.

When Gov. Brad Little proposed the allocation to the workforce housing fund, his office estimated it could lead to the construction of 1,000 units statewide, though IHFA said it wouldn’t know the number of units that can be supported until it starts reviewing projects.

IHFA’s board of commissions signed off on the allocation plan on Aug. 18 and project applications are due Oct. 7.

Hellenkamp said the city encourages local developers to apply.

“We are obviously very interested in seeing those funds be available for development use in the Boise area, where a significant portion of the statewide need for workforce housing is centered,” she said.

However, she said the city is aware the need for affordable housing exists statewide.

IHFA is using the state’s seven public health district regions to ensure the money gets spread out. At least 20% of the funds are set aside for rural areas, and the regions including Canyon and Ada counties will receive a higher proportion of the funds because they encompass the state’s largest population centers.

Aside from the geographic distribution, projects that provide the most housing and have matching support from local governments will receive preference.

The housing supported by the fund will target households with incomes not exceeding 80% of the county’s median income.

Hellenkamp said the $50 million is a historic investment, but she expects it to go quickly.

“We really have a need for additional ongoing investment,” she said.

She hopes the legislature this upcoming session revisits how it can address Idaho’s housing needs, whether through a revolving loan fund, state low income tax credits paired with the federal ones or property tax exemptions for low income housing.

IHFA hopes to award the projects early next year and the funds have to be utilized by 2026.

Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen

Copyright 2022 Boise State Public Radio

I cover environmental issues, outdoor recreation and local news for Boise State Public Radio. Beyond reporting, I contribute to the station’s digital strategy efforts and enjoy thinking about how our work can best reach and serve our audience. The best part of my job is that I get to learn something new almost every day.

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