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Boise, Idaho

What Does Idaho’s Population Boom Mean for Homeowners?

By Tanya Svoboda
July 2020

If you’re checking out recent “best of” lists for states, you’re likely to see Idaho pop up again and again. The U.S. News lists Idaho as the second Best State for the Middle Class, and the fifth Best State for Employment. The U.S. Census ranked Idaho as the Fastest Growing State in the Nation, and Forbes listed Boise as the number one Fastest Growing City in the U.S.

In 2018, Idaho saw a 2.09 percent growth in its population with 26.3 percent of move-ins coming from California, 14.3 percent from Washington, 5 percent from Nevada, and nearly 8 percent from Oregon. These new arrivals are younger (between 35 and 39 years old) and more educated. All of this seems like great news for the Gem State. But, while the boom in Idaho’s population is bringing with it many positives, long time homeowners are starting to see some negatives as well.

Pros of the Population Boom
  • More Jobs: There’s no shortage of work in Idaho, which is drawing new residents in. KIDK 3 News reports the Idaho Falls Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) had the fastest growth rate for non-farm jobs of any MSA in the nation. The state’s job growth rate is strong at 3 percent. Many of the transplants from surrounding states are following the tech jobs that are popping up in the Mountain West area – Boise, in particular.
  • Local Business Growth: Move-ins are not only coming to the state in pursuit of jobs at existing businesses, but they are also coming with ambitions of starting their own businesses and homeowners are benefiting from their efforts.

    “In the last 10 years, Idaho’s economy has become more diverse, which can easily be seen in the boom downtown,” Wes Jost, a senior vice president and manager of Zions Bank’s Idaho commercial real-estate group, told Business Insider. “New people and businesses are continuing to relocate to Boise, placing our area in growth mode for the last six to seven years.” The result in Idahoan cities like Boise are downtowns filled with microbreweries, hip coffee shops, and farm to table restaurants.

  • More Housing Developments: The influx of people into Idaho’s cities has led to the construction of luxury apartments and studios giving locals new living options. The developer of one such complex stated that they chose Boise because of its recent “dramatic economic and demographic growth [partially due to] the tech exodus from cities like San Francisco and Seattle and the movement of senior citizens to Idaho.”
Cons of the Population Boom
  • Housing Affordability: In Idaho, housing prices and income are growing at different rates and it is worrying to current homeowners and potential homebuyers. KTVB 7 notes, Idaho’s wages lag behind the rest of the country by roughly 15 percent. That means for every dollar an average U.S. resident makes, an Idahoan only makes 85 cents. While traditionally this hasn’t been an issue because of Idaho’s historically low cost of living, Jordan Prassinos, an economic forecaster with Idaho Power states, “We saw a 15% appreciation in home values, which means the cost of living is no longer all that positive.”
  • Lack of Transportation: As people flock to the state, they’re encountering and overtaxing Idaho’s existing infrastructure issues. The Idaho Transportation Department’s annual report showed a revenue shortfall of over $406 million. The number of licensed drivers in the state is growing and towns across the state are struggling to keep up with the maintenance required to accommodate the added users.

Stuck between a rock and a hard place, Kent Fugal, city engineer for Idaho Falls, knows that upkeep is necessary but worries about overstretching Idaho’s residents. He told Idaho News, “There are some improvements that I would love to make that we probably can’t make because of the high cost to not only the city’s bottom line financially but to individual property owners that would be impacted.”

Whether or not Idaho emerges from this population boom stronger will depend on strategic planning and a deep understanding of how to maintain all the things that are drawing out of state move-ins to the area in the first place.

As Boise’s mayor Lauren McLean said, “If we’re not careful and if we don’t include all voices and think hard about how we create a city for everyone…then we risk becoming that place like everywhere else where you just live, you work, you do your thing, and we lose that deep intentional connection to place and people.”


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