As the 2022 Idaho Legislative Session approaches, the City of Boise’s Government Affairs team has been working to connect with lawmakers and stakeholders to address the needs of Boise residents.
In preparation for the upcoming session, staff has identified the following items of interest, based on input received from Boiseans throughout the year, across each of the City’s strategic priority areas.
The City of Boise’s top priority for the 2022 session is focused on housing affordability, specifically:
- Creating homes
- Preserving existing affordable homes
- Housing the unhoused
Like much of the state, the City of Boise does not have enough affordable housing to meet the needs of many of our residents, specifically those earning $31,680 - $42,200 annually, or 60 – 80% of Area Median Income (AMI). A recent analysis found that, to meet projected need, the City would need to add more than 27,000 units of housing that is affordable to households making 80% or less of the Area Median Income over the next 10 years. While the City is seeking to use all its available tools to make the development of affordable homes possible, there are many ways in which the State and Idaho Legislature can play an important role in this work.
To that end, to expand access to affordable housing, we are asking lawmakers to appropriate funds in the State’s housing trust fund which would provide gap financing for developers who are wanting to construct affordable housing in the City. Additionally, we are asking lawmakers to consider creating additional tax incentives – either tax credits or exemptions – that would offer developers another tool to engage in the affordable housing market and increase available units for Boise residents.
In the preservation space, we’ll also be closely monitoring any legislation that may impact renters in order to keep residents housed in currently affordable units. You can review a full list of our housing priorities here.
Finally, we’ll be closely monitoring the State’s potential appropriation of second round funding for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP). While the City’s program has been successful in dispersing our city-based funds, there remains a strong ongoing need for rental assistance in the Boise area. We hope to partner with the State to access their funds and/or ensure those funds are prioritized for disbursement here in Boise. If you need rental assistance, you can learn more here.
While the City of Boise does not manage its roads due to Ada County Highway’s jurisdiction in the city, we’ll be closely monitoring how the State engages in infrastructure investment – roads, bridge maintenance and repair, public transportation, and rail – given that Idaho will be receiving billions of dollars through the passage of the bipartisan American Jobs Plan. Areas of importance for the City of Boise will be on connecting and creating additional pedestrian and bicyclist pathways, increased funding for regional public transportation (Valley Regional Transit) and the potential for passenger rail to return to the region.
Property tax discussions will remain a top issue for the Legislature in 2022. After the passage of HB 389 last year, there still remains additional property tax reform measures that we hope lawmakers will consider in order to provide meaningful relief to residents to keep Boiseans in their homes. Our top priorities remain:
- Homeowner’s Exemption: Idaho tax code allows homeowners to exempt up to $125,000 of their property value from property taxes so long as the home is their primary residence. The City of Boise supports legislation that would remove this fixed cap and reinstate indexing the exemption that was repealed in 2016 to allow the available amount eligible for an exemption to rise with increasing home values.
- Enhancing the Circuit Breaker Program: The City of Boise supports changes to the State’s property tax reduction program. As the income-gap widens, more residents would benefit from the program if the financial threshold for qualifying for the program was increased, and the amount of tax relief eligible participants could receive also increased. We also recommend repealing the means test applied to the program under the passage of HB 389 to prevent homeowners from losing access to the program simply because their home value exceeds the area median average.
- Impact Fees for Schools: The City of Boise supports legislation that allows schools to levy impact fees as a measure of relieving pressure on property tax. State statute allows cities, counties and highway districts to charge impact fees to residential and commercial developments to fund one-time capital investments for public facilities such as roads, parks, police and fire stations. Public schools, however, cannot utilize impact fees to build or expand school facilities even if new residential development could potentially strain local schools. Consequently, school districts rely on property tax bonds to raise funds when they experience growth beyond what their state funding was based on.
The COVID-19 pandemic will continue to be an intensely debated topic come 2022, and the City is committed to taking the necessary steps to protect our community and keep residents healthy and safe. Areas of focus for state lawmakers will likely include vaccine requirements for employers/employees, masking requirements at the school level, and appropriation of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds for ongoing economic recovery. As the session commences, the City will prioritize measures that would enact medically needed, scientifically backed safety precautions to stop the continuing spread of COVID-19. Additionally, specific areas of ARPA appropriation interest include affordable housing, broadband investments, childcare, emergency rental assistance and water/sewer infrastructure so that the City can leverage its own relief funds to provide needed financial relief to residents.
As the 2022 session commences, staff will continue to provide weekly updates on top legislative priorities for the City.