By Patrick Sisson [email protected].
Idaho’s capital—from the city of Boise itself to the surrounding towns that have shifted from farmers’ fields to subdivisions over the past few years—is in the midst of a building boom. While Boise’s economy has been attracting new residents, much of the boom is fueled by migration from others trying to escape expensive coastal cities out west. Even so, the specifics of these moves don’t map exactly onto the stories we tell about who is leaving the coasts and how they’re changing noncoastal cities.
It’s instructive to look past the construction and zero-in on the type of housing being built to get a better sense of what is driving this growth, according to Phil Mount, Boise’s regional realtors president. A lot of the new construction he’s seeing around towns like Eagle and East Boise could best be described as nice single-level homes—with a few added touches, including low-threshold doors that are easier for owners who are disabled, spacious hallways, wide showers, and maintenance-free features. These are easy-to-live-in homes in neighborhoods with clubhouses and walkable access to stores. They are perfect places for older, wealthier retirees to spend their golden years.
“I just had a client, a 70-year-old widow from Northern California, Darolene Mullin, who came out here because she didn’t like what was happening to her home, and the lifestyle here suited her,” he said. “She’s in the area affected by the blackouts (due to fears that downed power lines would spark wildfires), and just decided that Boise is where she’ll spend her retirement years. It’s so much easier here.”
Are wealthier retirees, or those near retirement, having an outsized impact on housing markets? In Idaho’s Ada County, which includes Boise, the inventory of available single-family homes has dropped every quarter since 2014, and the median sales price has increased from $209,990 to $324,950, a 54.7 percent jump. At the same time, demographics have shifted. Between 2012 and 2017, the number of baby boomers in the region, those aged 52 to 70, grew by 30.5 percent.
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