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Community-provided benefits for builders explained

by By KIKI MILLER/Guest Contributor
| May 19, 2024 1:00 AM

A few facts provided by the North Idaho Building Contractors Association, the National Home Builders Association and our local professional studies show the following: 

• Building costs have gone up 200% in the past few years.

• Nearly 70% of all jobs in the community are touched by the construction industry.

• The building industry makes up over half of our local economy.

• As a region we need to build nearly 2,500 homes per year to provide for the shortage of local worker housing.

• Land costs, born by the developer to build a home, have skyrocketed since the pandemic. That price is passed on to the home buyer.

• Most jurisdictions have increased impact fees on new construction in recent years to pay for growth.

All of these add up to home prices increasing while builders struggle with labor costs and availability and keeping profit margins stable. The concept that the builder is just “greedy” isn’t necessarily true. The Housing Solutions Partnership created a development incentive list by gathering information from local building departments and planners. The list can be found at housingni.org.

The importance of this data is to aid in negotiating development agreements or other contracts that can encourage and assure that creating and preserving local worker housing can be achieved for a community while helping builders continue operating successfully. The data show that most jurisdictions do provide a number of the incentives requested by the majority of builders. 

There are many incentives, including reviewing building types like pocket or cottage housing, micro condos, or multi-generational and twin home zoning expansion, being discussed. All of these can help our local building community be more successful in providing homes our workers can afford. 

But there are other stumbling blocks in these discussions. Due process of the law requires fair treatment in the approval of all development projects. Legal processes are in place for all developers/builders, and a jurisdiction cannot give preference to one project over another. The same opportunities must be afforded to all. 

If a jurisdiction requires certain criteria from a development project, for example a requirement for parks or trails, it must be required of all similarly situated projects as noted in the comprehensive plan and zoning districts. 

Project permits brought forward are reviewed under the same policies and ordinances to ensure that the same rules apply to all. There must be valid conclusions to deny a project and defensible findings to approve it. 

As a region, we are at a crossroads on how we move forward in preserving and providing local worker housing in the future. Discussions surrounding incentives, how they can legally be applied and what required changes within our processes are needed, are all part of the challenge facing decision-makers and our community now. The Housing Solutions Partnership is continuing to lead and facilitate those discussions. 

For more see housingni.org.

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Kiki Miller is a Coeur d’Alene City Council Member and Founding Member of the Housing Solutions Partnership.