This report is prepared by Dr. Jen Schneider, Professor of Public Policy & Administration at Boise State University. The report is based off the Community Conversation on Growth in-person workshops and online session available in August 2018 for Boise residents.
This report describes the findings from the second series of Community Conversations hosted by the City of Boise in August 2018. Participants were guided through a discussion of three scenarios that featured different types of housing developments. Discussion centered around who would benefit from each type of development, who might be disadvantaged, and related areas of concern, such as transportation, preservation, and governance. Findings can be grouped into the two broad themes described below.
Smart, Creative, Human-Centered Growth
- Though they were not asked to pick a preferred scenario, most participants preferred that higher-density developments be developed closer to the core.
- But not just any old high-density will do. Participants also want developers to be much more creative in how they design and build housing. They want the focus to be on building neighborhoods and fostering human well-being, not just on housing projects. They want a wider variety of housing options, including very small, very affordable housing units. And they want housing projects to provide access to green/open space, transit, and commercial and employment opportunities nearby.
- That said, participants seemed to disagree, even if mostly implicitly, about what is meant by “affordable housing,” and who is most in need of protection from rising rents and home prices. The city should not assume everyone means the same thing when they use this phrase.
- Many participants are struggling with competing values and contradictions:
- Many are grappling with the tension between private property rights (the right of people to sell their land to developers, and of developers to make certain decisions within the law) and the “common good”—the need for more affordable housing, environmentally sustainable development and mass transit. There are very different views about what government can and should do to intervene in the market.
- Similarly, many want developers to pay more for infrastructure, schools and other services, but want homes to be much more affordable than they are now.
- And participants wanted more apartment buildings, especially in areas where apartment buildings would not disrupt current neighborhood cultures, convenience and aesthetics, but they also fear that apartment buildings can be poorly built and encourage crime in neighborhoods.
Planning and Participation
- Participants are extremely worried that planning is not happening proactively, or with enough participation from residents.
- At the same time, many are concerned that the city is too focused on future residents and not enough on issues current residents are facing. Some participants continue to worry that as Boise grows, current residents will lose out, whether financially or in terms of their way of life changing. They feel they are being left behind, and that new arrivals are dictating the terms of growth. This paradox—wanting the city to plan for the future, and paying attention to those who feel left behind now—is one the city and its residents will have to navigate moving forward.
- Participants have many, many questions about the processes that guide development. Many are confused about what the city can and cannot control; want more information about planning and zoning decisions; and want more opportunities to engage the process, in different ways and at different stages than is currently mandated.