City of Idaho Falls addresses new study on tight housing market

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho — The housing market in Idaho Falls is tight and it’s going to continue shrinking unless builders can provide more inventory, a new study says.

The study, commissioned by the City of Idaho Falls and conducted by the Idaho Policy Institute, analyzed Idaho Falls’ current housing market and the five-year projection. Dana Briggs, Economic Development Director for the Idaho Falls, told KID NewsRadio the city wanted to know just how tight the market is as the city, state and nation experience an influx of economic growth and development.

We often talk about phrases like, “There’s a shortage here,” or “We need more housing built,” or “There’s not enough for low cover individuals in our community,” and so we always say that, but then we didn’t actually have the data to back it up,” Dana Briggs said. “Right now, in the nation we’re having housing discussions. There’s a housing shortage…the market is tight.”

But, understanding the current state of the housing market, especially on a local level, is a complex process. Housing inventory, Briggs said, is one piece of the bigger picture and is interconnected with other aspects of the economy like job availability and wages. According to the study, economic growth is bringing people to Idaho Falls and competitive wages are putting more money in people’s pockets. The question remains though, Briggs said, will Idaho Falls be able to house everyone?

We asked them to specifically forecast for us what Idaho Falls and Bonneville County’s housing inventory should to be in five years,” Briggs said. “What they discovered was that we’re about 1,000 units short of what they project will be needed…yes, we’re growing and yes, housing has continued to increase, but then that demand is still outstripping the supply a little bit. So, even as we continue to try to keep pace with the growth, in five years, we will need to make sure that we have that housing available.”

Keeping up opens up another discussion for the city. As pricing for materials increases nationally, builders are needing to raise their prices to cover the higher costs.

Some of these prices are increasing because on their side of things their prices are increasing to get the materials, and so again, how it all connects and for them, it’s been difficult to find qualified labor, qualified employees. So, home builders are trying to keep up with the pace of building these homes that we say we need, but then they as well are having difficulty finding employees, the prices are raising for them, and so then those have to be passed onto the homeowner, and so just all kind of goes together.”

Pre-2000’s data is not adjusted to reflect modern-day prices

The cost of housing Idaho has increased risen significantly since 1940. According to real estate website Zillow, the median cost of a home in Idaho sits at around $220,000. But, Briggs also said rented properties are on the rise.

“One of the…trends in the nation, not only for younger generations, but just here in Idaho Falls as well, you’ll have noticed that maybe you’ve seen more rental units available and so that is something that this city study verified,” Briggs said. “Particularly in Ammon, actually that, kind of had a burst of apartment, town home, multi-family type units there because that’s something that people are looking to more so than maybe in the past as far young people, but also older people, retired individuals are looking more to rent versus own.”

Still, Briggs feels optimistic about the future of Idaho Falls. The results of the study give the city and those in the housing industry, better information to direct the conversation.

I see Idaho Falls continuing on an upward trajectory,” Briggs said. “I really do, we’ve had steady growth for the past decade. It’s been continually steady and just constant, upward movement…and even with challenges like housing, we have such a beautiful state and a beautiful place that people want to come to and, so I continue to see that growth and we expect that and now we just want to make sure that our infrastructure and everything meets those needs. “

Read the full study here.