Forum to tackle Cd’A housing issues

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As Coeur d’Alene’s exploding seller’s market is leaving behind an ever-expanding class of lower-income buyers and renters, three community groups — the city of Coeur d’Alene, the Coeur d’Alene Association of Realtors and CDA 2030 — are hosting an affordable housing forum.

The Missing Middle Housing Forum will address the need for infill, urban and affordable housing in the area. Tony Perez of Opticos Design will present the audience with housing model theories. Representatives from each group will come together for a meeting of the minds.

“We’ve felt there’s a demographic and a price range of homes out there,” said Amanda Kuespert, president of the Coeur d’Alene Association of Realtors. “Employers and employees alike are struggling to come to this area, because the rentals here are getting so high that people are getting stuck.”

“We are recognizing the housing issues in our community and don’t want our local residents priced out of the housing market,” Hilary Anderson, community planning director for the city of Coeur d’Alene, said in a statement. “So we have practically teamed up with the Coeur d’Alene Association of Realtors and CDA 2030 to work on addressing a gap in our housing market.”

The forum will be held Wednesday from 8 a.m. to noon on the second floor of the Student Union Building at North Idaho College.

Kuespert said the problem becomes an impossibly vicious cycle that compounds itself with each turn.

“With the rentals here, people have to be able to afford $1,400 to $1,800,” she said. “This could be 60% to 80% of their debt-to-income ratio. So we see a continuing cycle of rental prices going up and up. The demographics of houses between $120,000 and $230,000 are next to nothing, and because of supply and demand, they aren’t in great condition.”

Missing Middle Housing, coined by Opticos founder Daniel Parolek, uses a variety of diverse housing options, such as duplexes, fourplexes, and bungalow courts, that aim to fit seamlessly into low-rise walkable neighborhoods and support walkability, as well as locally serving retail and public transportation options. The concept plays to the idea of walkable neighborhoods for people unable to afford single-family homes.

“As part of the community vision, there is a strategy called Affordable Community,” said Nicole Kahler, executive director of CDA 2030. “This ensures the city has a mix of different housing, and one of those strategies is for affordable housing, as well. With the insane [Coeur d’Alene area] housing market, this is a real need.”

The forum will include exercises to identify preferred housing types, as well as areas of the community suitable for Missing Middle Housing. The event will also feature roundtable discussions focused on housing demand, financing, compatible housing types and incentives for affordable housing, among other topics.

“This idea [of Missing Middle housing] doesn’t necessarily call for new housing,” Kahler said. “It could involve modifying existing housing options. Honestly, I think it’s taking a little more of a proactive approach in the housing landscape we’re dealing with.”

Kahler said she welcomes the forum to engage the public.

“I can’t say it will solve all the housing problems,” she said, “but it’s a puzzle piece. It’s a proactive approach.”

“We are excited to bring Opticos to town and learn from them,” Anderson said. “[Opticos will] help us reflect on what we might need to do in our comp plan and our zoning code to encourage this additional housing.”

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