Local snapshot

Idaho Housing Crisis

Tony & Danica Thurber, updated June 2023

In order to meet current demand, 77% of all new homes built in Boise would need to meet the requirements of affordable housing*. It’s anticipated only 900 affordable homes will be built in the next four years, meeting just 8% of the need. 

“SOMETHING has to change.”  

At least, that’s what I’ve found myself saying over and over again.

Originally hailing from Canada, I moved to the United States for school in 2009 and have made Idaho my home ever since. I met my wife just after college and we moved into our first apartment in 2017 and we immediately began saving for our first home.

We had no idea the kind of market we’d be facing.

My wife and I are the kind of people who try to do all the “right things,” like building good credit, paying bills on time, paying off debt and specifically saving for a downpayment on a house. By 2018, we were in another apartment in Boise, still saving up for our dream. We were just about ready to look for our first home when the COVID-19 Pandemic hit, triggering a mass migration to cities like Boise. An already low housing supply combined with cash bidding wars drove housing prices through the roof, taking us along with it.

After months of looking for a home, the discouragement was very real. We began to realize that our savings meant very little in this market. And then we found out that we were expecting our first child. 

It’s been a dream for me to be a homeowner since I was a kid, and it felt like that dream died a little more each day. I kept asking myself, if I’ve done all the “right” things to get here, why was this happening? 

I know I’m not the only one with this story.  

*Affordable housing is generally defined as housing on which the occupant is paying no more than 30 percent of gross income for housing costs, including utilities.

idaho housing crisis

By the Numbers

Units Needed per year for the next 10 years in boise

77 percent of all new homes built need to be affordable in order to met demand.



With a 7.5% interest rate and 3% down payment, a three-person household making 80% AMI ($64,200 as of March 2023) would need to spend 75% of their income in order to purchase a home at the average price in Ada County ($483,450 as of June 2023).  They’d be paying $4014 a month on their mortgage!


of Boise households are paying more than 30% of their income on housing costs

Anything above 32% can lead to an increase in HOMELESSNESS.

homes / year

Of all the new building projects, only a small number are considered affordable. It’s estimated that only 900 affordable homes will be built over the next FOUR years, meeting just 8% of the demand for affordable housing. 

identifying the problem

It’s not like it was in the 90’s

Like most millennials I know, the story of trying to find a “home within budget” (defined as 30% of your income) just isn’t within reach. It’s become so normal that I know many people who’ve given up and are just going to rent for the rest of their lives.  The problem is not desire; it’s purely about feasibility.

I’m a numbers guy so I wanted to break out some math to show you why homeownership is nothing like it used to be. Let’s compare the current market to the market I grew up in – and keep in mind that interest rates in the 90’s were EVEN HIGHER than they are today.

2023 1990
$483,450 Average Home – March 2023 $58,000 average Home
$64,200 (3) Person 80% AMI – June 2023 $33,757 (3) person 80% AMI
7.5% Interest rate – May 2023 10.13% Interest Rate
$4014 monthly mortgage payment (with 3% down) $791 monthly Mortage payment (3% down)
75% of before tax income towards house payment. 28% of before tax income towards house payment.

The comparison is staggering, and yet it legitimizes what we hear more and more in personal anecdote: in 2023, someone in Ada county is spending 47% more of their income on an average home than they did in 1990. To be fair, the social and global economy was going through vastly different issues back then, so let’s stop comparing apples to oranges and get to work on actually tackling this issue.

Here’s how we made it work.

My wife and I are by no means wealthy, but there were a few key factors that we had working for us when searching for our first home. We had already worked hard to pay off all our debt. We made a little above the average median income and… we found a miracle. 

We started to search for our first home in 2020 with a focus on finding an existing 1,100 sq. ft. home that was up for sale.  It didn’t take long to realize that we were priced out of that market.  

So we began to look for new builds that didn’t come with a cash bidding war and ridiculous contingencies. After reaching out to at least twelve different builders in the Treasure Valley, we were sorely disappointed.  No one was building anything remotely at our price point. That’s when we got connected with a non-profit builder dedicated to helping people achieve homeownership. Fast forward another year, and we finally moved into our first home with our now five month old son in tow. We still aren’t anywhere near the 30% income to house payment threshold but it’s not as bad as the 75% or more some people are facing.

For those still waiting on their miracle, the wait lists are long. Prices keep increasing. Savings dry up. More people move in. The gap between wages and housing prices grows by the day. The housing supply is constantly behind. On and on it goes.

There is so much work that needs to be done.

the solution is multi-faceted

The Case For Micro-Communities

The housing crisis we are facing in the Treasure Valley, let alone in the United States, is enormous and extremely complicated. It will require a lot of work from a lot of different people.  I won’t be able to address all the problems without writing a book so let me focus on the one thing I know: how micro-communities can be apart of the solution.

It was an intriguing concept and a total relief to find NeighborWorks Boise. It also wasn’t the house we’d expected or dreamed of – it was better and didn’t require repairs like an existing home would have.

Purchased in December 2021, we are now the proud owners of a single family home on a tiny piece of land with a two three-foot side-yards.  The front door faces inwards toward all the other homes’ main entires. Instead of each home having a big, underutilized yard that requires a lot of water and maintence, we share one big green space. There’s community garden beds, walking paths and, well, community.

It didn’t take us long to meet our neighbors, even in the dead of winter, because we were consistently seeing them and interacting with them.

The whole concept got me thinking about how much we overvalue land and undervalue community. What if these micro-communities could not just help the housing crisis, but also address the loneliness epidemic that everyone is talking about?

Do you know your neighbors? Most of us probably know a few neighbors by name and face, but not much more than that.

It’s actually not your fault; it’s simply a result of how neighborhoods have been designed to fit around vehicles, roads and boundaries (geographical, political, and social), and not the other way around.

In the United States, neighborhoods are designed for complete independence. On the other side of the coin, they also create social isolation. Standard homes are designed with massive garages out front. Friendly front porches are increasingly a relic of the past, replaced with fenced backyards that are obviously invitation-only. Most suburban-living Americans commute from the attached garage into the car, without ever needing to interact with their neighbors. A “hello!” shouted across the street while collecting the mail never did much to forge friendships with those living around us.

American neighborhoods might meet a baseline need for housing (though we all know that’s currently debatable), but that’s where it ends; no deeper needs are taken into consideration.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Through meticulous planning and visionary design, an architect can craft what I call “micro-communities”. These are neighborhoods that foster a sense of belonging and promote well-being. From shared green spaces to communal facilities, every aspect is thoughtfully crafted to encourage interaction and create a vibrant social fabric.

It’s a good idea for social well-being, but there’s a financial incentive as well. Micro-communities are meticulously designed to maximize economic value by optimizing land usage and incorporating sustainable features. From energy-efficient buildings to smart infrastructure, these communities are not only environmentally conscious but also economically viable. Every inch can be designed to contribute toward a better future.

By blending form and function, micro-communities are changing the way we conceive of both urban and suburban living.

working together 

We want to be a part of the solution.

The Idaho housing crisis affects every facet of our economy, and beyond. Policymakers and dreamers alike are beginning to dream up creative solutions to our most pressing problems. And not only that, crisis is creating the opportunity to dream about better ways to design neighborhoods and whole communities, affecting not just the state economy, but raising the standard of living as a whole.

I know. It’s a big goal. But I know I’m not alone.

When designed well, I believe that architecture has the power to enrich lives and build communities, leaving an impact that stretches far beyond that community for generations to come. If you’d like partner with me to create these communities while providing a legacy that the next generation will be proud of (and can afford), I’d love to chat.

Let’s change the world together, one neighborhood at a time.

long-term goal

Anchored Architects


Our goal is to provide 560 homes (20 neighborhoods) by 2033


Get In Touch

I’d love to hear more about how you’re facing the housing crisis, or finding your own creative solutions. Contact me with questions or inquiries, or schedule a free consultation call to work on your dream project.

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Tony Thurber

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