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Boise State students struggle to find housing amidst Idaho shortage, strained resources

Photo by Claire Keener

Boise State students are facing housing challenges amidst Idaho’s shortage of affordable housing.

The Hope Center for College Community and Justice at Temple University surveyed Boise State students in 2020, and 43% of the 3,862 students who responded reported experiencing housing insecurity in the last year.

The Treasure Valley has received national coverage in the last year for its booming population growth and climbing housing prices, resulting in competitive housing options among students.

Additionally, the most recent study from ApartmentList.com found that the median Boise rent had increased by 39% since March 2020 as of September, more than any other city in the nation.

“We’re in one of the fastest-growing cities in the fastest-growing state in the country,” said Boise State president Dr. Marlene Tromp in a podcast interview with BoiseDev from May 2021. “What that means is the entire university needs to grow.”

According to Tromp, demand for housing on campus is high, a concern that has discouraged potential students from attending Boise State.

Identity Apartments near Boise State campus
[Photo of the Identity apartment complex near Boise State campus]
Photo by Claire Keener | The Arbiter

Boise State’s next housing project is likely to be focused on first-year students who want an active campus experience, according to Tromp.

“We know we’re losing talented students because we don’t have enough housing capacity for them, so we know that there’s a current demand,” Tromp said. “But we also have goals for the future, and that’s thinking about the growth of Boise and the potential growth of Boise State.”

Kai Hart is a third-year sociology major at Boise State, who has lived both on and off campus while attending Boise State. On top of classes and work, housing has consistently posed serious problems for Hart.

“It’s gotten increasingly hard to find somewhere to live,” Hart said.

Hart moved back home to save money after living on campus for a year, before eventually moving to off-campus housing that was more affordable. Hart now commutes from Mountain Home twice a week to attend classes in person.

“I really liked living on campus, I would just say it was definitely way too expensive. My first year I was a full-time student, and pretty much just to afford my bills and food I was working about 35 hours a week on average,” Hart said.

Hart believes Boise State urgently needs more housing options, and should invest in more kinds of housing on and off campus that meet a broader base of student need, with an emphasis on removing barriers for students in minority groups.

“It’s really important that states and cities have housing that is safe, decent, affordable and accessible for people up and down the economic spectrum,” said Dr. Krista Paulsen, an associate professor within Boise State’s School of Public Service specializing in housing research.

Markets are not always the best way to provide a variety of housing, according to Paulsen. She explained it is often more profitable to build higher-end housing, and so developers may want to produce more expensive options.

“It’s not always about building more housing. One of the challenges is to preserve the existing affordable housing,” Paulsen said.

It is important to look at housing problems in a holistic way to meet the needs of students and the greater Treasure Valley alike, according to Paulsen.

“Some people think about housing as infrastructure. You can certainly think about it [as] filling certain kinds of basic needs for shelter or privacy, but home is more than that,” Paulsen said.

What one considers home is also part of identity formation and contributes to a sense of normalcy and community, according to Paulsen.

“If we are committed to solving the housing crisis here, that will mean building more housing and it will mean building housing of various types,” Paulsen said. “And it will mean building that housing in many kinds of neighborhoods.”

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