COEUR d’ALENE — Houses go up, prices go up.
Wages don't go up, morale won’t go up.
"One thing we’re seeing a lot is the cost of construction going up, which brings the floor of affordability up," said Lindsay Allen of Northwest Realty Group.
"When you’ve got all these people who sit in this realm who have affordability issues, when we pull the carpet out from underneath them and set the standard up above them, it creates a whole generation or more of renters or people that can’t ever afford a home. It’s sad to see. I’ve been in the industry for almost a decade. And I’ve seen it go down, and I’ve seen it come up, and I’ve seen things go from affordable to completely out of reach for people. That’s sad to see; it’s completely out of reach for people now. There are so many people in our community that don’t have the high-paying jobs or the education."
Housing woes, comments, feedback and ideas were shared Wednesday during the Missing Middle Housing Forum in North Idaho College's Edminster Student Union Building. Presented by the City of Coeur d’Alene, Coeur d’Alene Association of Realtors and CDA 2030, the forum welcomed at least 130 people — real estate agents, nonprofit heads, community leaders and others — to gather for four hours to brainstorm options and weigh in on how Kootenai County could handle its housing crisis.
"Missing middle housing" describes a lack of affordable housing options. It's a transformative concept that highlights the need for diverse housing choices in sustainable, walkable places.
"It’s very clear that our income levels in the community are not keeping pace with the housing crisis. We have a big disconnect," said Coeur d'Alene community planning director Hilary Anderson. "It’s forcing people to go outside of our county."
One approach is to examine the variety of middle housing that could be built. Rather than single-family detached houses and high-rise apartments, forum attendees were asked to consider structures such as duplexes, cottage courts, townhouses, fourplexes and courtyard buildings, which can blend into neighborhoods easier than high-rises. Participants were asked to place stickers on maps of the Coeur d'Alene area, indicating where they think those structures would be most appropriate to help solve housing problems.
"I think it gets people out of the box in what they think housing is, as opposed to single-family to large apartment complexes," said Blue Door Realtor Sarah McCracken, who was born and raised in Coeur d'Alene. "It definitely gets you thinking of more ideas and more locations."
Tony Perez of Opticos Design, a Berkeley, Calif.-based architectural design and engineering service, gave a presentation about missing middle housing and discussed how form-based code, a relatively new way of managing growth, is better for evaluating housing needs than traditional density based methods.
"Form-based zoning looks at the building environment and sees it all as a big mixing board like a recording studio uses to mix a group," Perez said, explaining how the technique promotes balance so one element in a neighborhood doesn't overshadow another.
"You have to start thinking in terms of, ‘Wait a second, how big are the lots where we’re going to think about this?’” Perez said. "How deep it goes into the lot has a big difference on whether those rear yards in that neighborhood are even private anymore."
The forum included interactive exercises, a panel forum and breakout sessions on: development barriers to missing middle housing; need for housing and impacts to recruitment efforts; financing ideas; creative solutions for housing and compatible housing types; target areas and characteristics for missing middle housing; and incentives for affordable housing.
Bev Gadberry of Coeur d'Alene couldn't help but shake her head throughout the morning. As someone who was born and raised in Idaho, whose children and grandchildren were born and raised and Idaho, she was concerned about what she heard at the forum.
"What I heard at the Missing Middle Housing Forum was how can the banks, real estate brokers and contractors make more money building multi-family housing. More units, more money," she said. "I heard nothing pertaining to low-income housing and accessible housing needs. This is the crucial topic in this area!
"This has always been a community of hard-working people, with a sense of community and how to help our fellow citizens. The citizens that are most vulnerable, like our parents and our children, these are the citizens that need low-income and accessible housing. This forum did not address any of these critical issues. I am extremely disappointed in the mindset of these Coeur d'Alene leaders.”
Video from the forum and PowerPoint presentation will be available on the city of Coeur d'Alene's website, www.cdaid.org, early next week.