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NeighborWorks completes Boise ‘pocket neighborhood’

photo of some of the units at the Hawthorne Street Cottages pocket neighborhood

The Hawthorne Street Cottages. Photo by Catie Clark.

NeighborWorks Boise has finished its first pocket neighborhood within Boise’s city limits.

By the end of 2019, all of the homes in the Hawthorne Street Cottages pocket neighborhood were completed and sold. The 12-unit subdivision is located off of Ormond Street near Hawthorne Elementary School in the Vista neighborhood.

“Hawthorne is a great example of NeighborWorks partnering with the City of Boise,” said Bud Compher, CEO of NeighborWorks Boise. “The city already had a vision in mind for creating opportunities by working with neighborhood associations across Boise. Energize Vista was their first try of following that vision.”

The pocket neighborhood was part of the housing component of Energize Vista, Boise’s first Energize Our Neighborhood initiative.

Energize Our Neighborhoods started in 2014. The Vista neighborhood was its first target. The city, the Vista Neighborhood Association and nonprofit groups like NeighborWorks worked together to improve the area through livability projects such as parks, better transit options and affordable housing.

The completion of the Hawthorne Street Cottages is one of the most recent achievements in this multi-year, multi-million dollar effort. The initiative had enough success in the Vista neighborhood that Boise  started similar programs in South Boise Village, the West Bench and the West End neighborhoods.

“Hawthorne fit the Energize Vista model very well,” Compher explained, “but a pocket neighborhood isn’t something that you can just find a developer and decide to do it.”

NeighborWorks used the community meeting process of Energize Vista to create the pocket neighborhood.

“There has to be this connection to the neighborhood, remarked Compher. “Some of the design and the sizes of the houses at Hawthorne were the result of input from the public meetings we held.”

The design of Hawthorne was deliberate in order to create a feeling of community.

“You look at a piece of land and decide how this is going to work,” Compher remarked. “Every inch of the house and the space around it –it all has to be part of your goal. You might have 30 different plans before you have something that seems right.”

The houses were designed to match the mid-1960s architecture of the homes on Ormond Street. The architect was Sherry McKibben of Boise.

To encourage diversity, Hawthorne mixed small cottages and larger homes with a spread of prices. In support of creating affordable housing, up to $70,000 of grant money was available to qualifying home buyers to help with the down payment.

“Our goal is sustainable, affordable housing, so we had a grant program to help with buying the homes we built,” Compher explained. “We gave four grants for Hawthorne out of the 12 homes sold. They were forgivable grants and they stay with the house. It’s not one of those situations where you live there for a few months, sell the house and walk away with the cash. The grants are for 20 years. If an owner were to sell 10 years down the road, then 10 years worth of the grant funds stay with the house.”

Education was an additional requirement for the home buyers who received the grants. Each had to attend a six-hour course on buying a home, using a curriculum authored by the Idaho Housing and Finance Association.

The Wells Fargo Housing Foundation gave NeighborWorks a $100,000 grant to help with the development of the Hawthorne Street Cottages.

NeighborWorks has more pocket-neighborhood homes in the pipeline. They broke ground in November 2019 on a 20-home project named Flourish in Garden City. Wells Fargo Housing Foundation has given the organization a grant for $250,000 to support the project.

About Catie Clark