Housing Toolbox for Western Policymakers (Mostly Idaho)

(Created for housing and community stakeholders by Erik Kingston, PCED, IHFA’s Housing Resources Coordinator)

Expanding housing choice has benefits far beyond fair housing compliance and civil rights; housing diversity is equally important for community and economic development strategies. Housing types and price points that reflect the needs and incomes of all community residents support a more stable labor force and educational system, reduce social costs of poverty, and lead to economic prosperity for all of us.

Conversely, housing speculation and inflation that drive prices up and tenants out—assisted and magnified by NIMBY opposition to new residential development or density—create externalized costs that are shifted to local taxpayers, employers, consumers and communities. A lack of housing within reach of workers drives demand for wage increases and leads to business contraction and overall inflation, which impact all residents.

Housing that is affordable to a range of incomes serves as a perpetual wage subsidy to local employers. — Dr. Peter Dreier

Housing can be made affordable one of two ways:

  1. Increase wages indefinitely to subsidize real estate speculation—this in turn fuels overall inflation in goods and services
  2. Increase taxes to subsidize employer and consumer costs—through housing choice vouchers and development incentives that keep rents low for essential workers (who do not earn a living wage)

Strictly speaking, the laws of supply and demand don’t apply equally to housing and things like oil or corn. Building only luxury apartments in one area isn’t the same as conditioning permits on some lasting community benefit, such as deed-restricted housing serving diverse incomes. But when neighbors consistently reject distributed residential density and diversity (competition for tenants), landlords can increase rents unchecked.

Smaller local developers proposing medium density or mixed-income housing operate on slim margins; they are often unable to overcome NIMBY-driven delays and hurdles. This leaves most housing development to larger (often out-of-state) corporate developers with significant capacity and legal teams to drive the housing market.

Beyond speculation and NIMBY, the net costs of housing are influenced by transportation, energy, land, construction, regulatory and financing factors. In some rural Idaho communities, workers must often commute long distances to find housing within their budget, while the cost to heat or cool inefficient housing can exceed rent in some cases. So we created the ‘T.R.U.V. (Transportation + Rent + Utilities +Visitability) Index’ to reflect real-world cost considerations.

Location, location, location. Housing costs are driven by land costs, but the value of land is dependent on its proximity to publicly-subsidized infrastructure, water, assets and resources. A building site in a roadless area without services or water is less than a site near libraries, schools, health care and high-speed broadband. Learn more here.

One could also make the argument that the value of a neighborhood reflects the people who make that neighborhood livable, safe, provisioned and maintained. In that way, essential workers provide a subsidy to the value of our homes and community when they sacrifice time, health, safety, and opportunity by commuting long distances or living in substandard, overcrowded, or unhealthy housing—or are unhoused.

We hope to update and expand tools and resources below to be more useful to policy makers and housing stakeholders. These data can help inform a larger statewide housing needs assessment and resource allocation process. See also “What cities and counties should know about fair housing for additional information from the 2022 Analysis of Impediments.

Assessing Housing Markets Needs

County data sets for demographics, poverty and housing/transportation cost burden.

*The contractor for the 2014 version based ‘cost-burden’ data on the American Community Survey, while the contractor for the 2018 release used cost-burden estimates from HAMFI and CHAS data, a subset of the ACS estimate.

Redlining, Exclusionary Zoning and Density Considerations

NEW! Top code reform priorities for the housing crisis 03.28.2023

A widespread shortage of affordable housing is causing local jurisdictions to amend their land-use regulations. Here’s a list of 10 highly effective reforms, with notes on why they are needed. https://tinyurl.com/2lfrqw63

“…redlining as a practice was technically barred with the passage of the Fair Housing Act and Housing and Urban Development Acts of 1968. Yet even after redlining was made illegal, policies such as residential zoning laws and the development of a credit score continued inequality in housing markets.” —Urban Institute: Assessing the legacies of historic redlining

Other online housing resources

Idaho Analysis of Impediments / Assessment of Fair Housing

U.S. housing market: impressions, impacts and implications

Housing Market Challenges

Affordability matters

Housing and Transportation: location-based costs

Tiny Houses and Personal Shelters: implications and opportunities for housing, planning and economic development professionals


2023 Presentations

2022 Presentations

2021 Presentations

2020 Presentations

Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute

Public Subsidy to Private Equity: Measuring the Social Costs of Housing Speculation

Small Towns, Big Change: Civic Engagement and Rural Resilience | WeCAN team

APA Idaho Chapter

2019 Presentations

10/2019 APA Idaho Chapter – Twin Falls, ID

The Rural Housing & Homelessness Puzzle

Twilight Zoning

7/2019 NW Community Development Institute

2019 Housing as a Second Language

6/2019 Association of Idaho Cities

Housing and Community_Planning for the Future

21st Century Barnraising: Community crowd investing

Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute

Housing and Community_Designing for the Future

2017 Presentations

10/2017 Idaho Chapter/APA Conference Presentations

Ghost Cities

Sandpoint Short Term Rentals

Links to resources:

2017 NW Community Development Institute

Housing as a Second Language (2017 update)

Related stories and links

2017 Association of Idaho Cities Conference

Housing Markets: Essential Trends and Strategies

2016 Materials

10/2016 Idaho Chapter/APA Conference Presentations

Next Steps for Small-Footprint Housing


Communities for Life: Aging-in-Place


The Changing Face of Fair Housing: Assessment of Fair Housing


Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (presentation by BBC Research and Consulting)

Center for Budget and Policy Priorities

2016 NW CDI Course—Third Year: Housing as a Second Language

2015 Presentations