Idaho nonprofit pioneers solutions for affordable housing challenges

Chloe Baul//November 14, 2023//


Idaho nonprofit pioneers solutions for affordable housing challenges

Chloe Baul//November 14, 2023//

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NeighborWorks Boise, a nonprofit organization, is seeking to redefine perceptions of affordable housing by creating quality homes and innovative housing solutions for underserved populations through strategic partnerships.

According to Bud Compher, chief executive officer of the organization, affordable housing isn’t just a goal, it’s a practical necessity for building a resilient and thriving society. “A safe, secure, affordable place to call home is the foundation for growth and success in life,” he said.

Yet, the path to affordable housing in Idaho has faced its share of obstacles, especially with the escalating costs of home construction becoming a significant challenge. 

The surge in costs has been attributed to the uptick in land prices, infrastructure expenses and the escalating rates of labor and material. 

“The home that I used to build eight years ago for $160,000, that same home now, we build for $335,000,” Compher said. 

Since 1980, NeighborWorks Boise has navigated a changing landscape, employing distinctive strategies to offer affordable housing solutions.

“Interest rates, coupled with increased building costs, have also made it challenging to help borrowers get their foot in the door of homeownership,” said Inga Hadder, the director of communication and community engagement at NeighborWorks. “Especially first-time homebuyers.” 

The struggle becomes even more acute for those on limited incomes.

A diverse solution approach

Originating as a nonprofit lender, NeighborWorks initially focused on providing first and second mortgages to families with incomes below 80% of the area median. Now, the organization’s commitment to addressing the complexities of affordable housing has evolved significantly over the years. 

“NeighborWorks is unique in the sense that it provides a variety of housing solutions for our community,” Compher said. 

This evolution includes strategic partnerships with cities for down payment assistance programs and a transformation into a community development financial institution. 

Beyond lending, the organization has extended into multifamily housing units and a rehabilitation division. Michael Shepard, the nonprofit’s rehab and asset manager, emphasized the importance of preserving existing housing stock.

 “We can’t build our way out of lower-end housing — it’s about what is affordable now, and many of those are the existing housing stock,” he said. “Our question is, how do we keep them affordable and healthy for families?”

In addition to their lending and housing initiatives, NeighborWorks Boise operates the Boise Homeshare Hub, a unique program contributing to the diversification of affordable housing options. 

Compher described it as a tool to “help people find affordable housing and homes for sale.” The Homeshare Hub connects individuals with extra living space to those in search of affordable housing, fostering a sense of community and shared resources. 

According to Hadder, this innovative approach aligns with NeighborWorks Boise’s commitment to challenging stereotypes associated with affordable housing, striving to make it not only accessible but also diverse and inclusive.

“We’re thinking that it can hopefully help two different demographics,” Hadder said. “One dealing with housing affordability and the other providing a solution for those seeking affordable rental options.” 

To address affordability head-on, NeighborWorks introduced the concept of a housing trust, which was created this year to bring in large sums of money for downpayment assistance. This initiative aims to maintain long-term affordability by having families own the structure but lease the land from NeighborWorks. 

According to Hadder, the nonprofit is also working closely with communities and legislators, advocating for ongoing funding and stable financing sources for affordable housing projects. 

“It’s really important to be able to strengthen and stabilize people who don’t have a safe place to live,” he said.