Controlling the Sprawl: Density versus Expansion of Urban Idaho

Growth in the Treasure Valley is a complicated issue. Many love Idaho for its open space, the mingling of rural with the urban that gives residents opportunities for escape, scenery, and recreation all just a short walk or bike ride away. With Boise’s booming popularity, the city must manage increasing urbanization and economic opportunity with the qualities that make the Boise area so desirable in the first place. That means a goal of density over sprawl.

The Community Planning Association of Idaho (COMPASS) predicts that we will need 1,000 units per year for the next 20 years to accommodate as many as 50,000 new residents by 2040. So where do we put these units?

Rather than see the Treasure Valley’s open spaces fill up with suburban sprawl, some investors and city planners look for solutions by creating density within the city’s already developed areas.

The City of Boise has outlined a strategy for making density a priority and interested investors can help. Here are the details:

Density over sprawl.

In 2018, the City of Boise began to implement a strategy called Grow Our Housing. This strategy consists of goals and values that city officials hope will drive Boise’s growth comfortably into the future, with a focus on creating density rather than sprawl. Grow Our Housing outlines 5 strategies for achieving this goal:

  • Decrease limitations on accessory dwelling units (ADUs). Here, the city has already succeeded with a vote that approved a new maximum size of 700 square feet and 2 bedrooms per unit.

  • Decrease minimum lot size while maximizing residential density. The city plans to go about this by increasing the number of units allowable per acre in certain lots.

  • Award up to a 50% increase in development density for buildings in residential zones smaller than 700 square feet. This gives developers an incentive to produce more small-footprint housing per acre, with the hope of adding affordable, efficient housing to the market.

  • Alter residential density metrics. Conventional methods of measuring for density allowances limit units per acre. The Grow Our Housing Strategy proposes allowances based on Floor Area Ratio instead.

  • Create additional zoning classifications. The City of Boise hopes to create both mixed-use and urban zones that make density a priority and maximize land use.

How investors can help.

Maintaining property values in the Boise area means protecting certain elements of the region’s desirability. Many praise the open vistas surrounding Boise and the recreation opportunities that accompany them, and planning for density in the city can protect those views while also creating opportunity for affordable housing options. Looking to invest in real estate in the Treasure Valley? Consider the following:

  • Invest in affordable, small-footprint housing. Alternative housing solutions are not only trendy, they are efficient and cost effective. Whether you are interested in homes built from shipping containers or you would like to add an accessory dwelling unit to your property, this is the perfect time for such an investment in the Boise area. New ordinances in Boise are paving the way for high-density usage of land, and a factory in Caldwell even produces low-cost shipping container homes in single-unit or multi-family models. Take advantage of density bonuses to maximize your rent revenue with affordable housing.

  • Support density ordinances. Showing your support for effective city planning can be simple. Attend a public hearing on a project you are interested in. Contact your City Council members. Learn what policies candidates for the upcoming city elections support.

  • Stay informed. Keep up to date on changing city ordinances to best know how to invest in the Boise community and its desirable real estate. Check back weekly for our Valley Market Insider for a closer look at housing information in the area.

208 Community

Managing Boise’s growth sustainably is a difficult task. Do you support city efforts for density over suburban sprawl? How do you think Boise could best incentivize developers to build with density and affordability in mind? Find on social media and share your thoughts, comments, and experiences with Boise’s growth. We can’t wait to hear from you.