Coming Into Urban Boise
When I first came to Boise in the early 1980s, the north end of the city was run down and desperately wanted attention; nothing seemed like it was going to last long. A small Coop had been opened and sold the usual flour, rutabagas, and radishes; the Hyde Park post office provided commerce and conversation; the local auto garage became Lucky 13, a corner hangout and beer parlor; and Vince’s barber shop, well, Vince’s barber shop was still there, but Vince was younger. Right about then Hulls Gulch was going to be ripped-up in preparation for a beautiful new crop of homes-beside-the-creek. There was a sense of entropy back then and these seemed to be the only businesses with a heartbeat.
But a few things have changed since then—everything runs more quickly, more smoothly, more happily–and today homes in all of Boise wear a nicer patina of greatness. They’ve been revitalized, remodeled and born again, like brand new Christians. House prices are ratcheting up again, after the Great Recession sent home values spinning down the drain. Small businesses are booming now, Hulls Gulch is protected from development, and the Treasure Valley Land Trust is purchasing more land to maintain the virtues of the fabulous foothills. Bikers in brilliant tights and logoed shirts sit in restaurants sipping local brews and checking their email before going out to conquer the Hard Guy trail. Life is growing and green and good here, but can this sweet lifestyle be sustained or are we headed back into the 80s?
I met with Jill Giese, a young realtor and Idaho native with Keller Williams Reality Boise, to ask her what’s up with home prices in Boise. She said that in 1998 one house sold for $100,000, that it had appreciated to $275,000 in 2007, and right now it was worth about $175,000. She said that the older neighborhoods in Boise, one in which this house was built, had maintained their prices more effectively than some parts of the city. In other neighborhoods, the prices had fallen even more and the “distressed properties,” ones that are owned by banks or have to be sold as “short sales,” averaged a whopping 56% of homes at the end of last year and remain at 52% in February. In the North End it was 32% and in the East End 17%.
That did not provide a sustainable community by any stretch of the imagination, as people moved in response to prices of houses and their newfound poverty. When gasoline prices went up significantly in 2007, putting more pressure on people living in towns like Meridian, Star, Nampa, and Kuna, people who had been forced out of their “distressed properties” started looking at other Boise neighborhoods or simply paid rent for awhile. Some looked for places closer to their jobs–if they still had them–and were beginning to move around based upon their income, obligatory payments, and preferences.