A developer wants to replace affordable housing with student apartments. What Boise said

Posted at 4:14 PM, Feb 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-11 18:14:20-05

If apartments at 2001 W. Boise Avenue are torn down, residents testified Monday at Boise’s Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, they’ll have to spend months finding affordable housing. Two men separately said they would have to move back in with their parents. Several said they would be homeless.

Residents of the Ridenbaugh Place Apartments, a 55-year-old complex that provides 25 affordable homes to its residents, went before the commission to request the denial of a project that would tear down their homes in lieu of nearly 200 apartments intended for students.

The project, proposed by St. Louis-based Collegiate Development Group has proposed 194 units with 537 bedrooms. The building would include more than 260 underground parking spaces for tenants. The developer anticipates that rents would average around $750 per bedroom, with studios going for about $1,000, the Statesman reported in October.

The apartments sit at the southwest corner of West Boise Avenue and South Protest Road. It would be close to Boise State University’s campus, but it would not be part of the university’s master plan. In the northeast corner of the intersection, there is a 94-unit, five-story apartment building called Identitythat opened in 2018.

The developer has introduced a relocation package for residents that would include helping with moving expenses and helping to pay the first month’s rent at new housing, but residents’ most-repeated concern was a fear of what tearing down affordable housing would do to the people who live there.

Tearing down the existing housing “is not in the interest of the general welfare, and it is not in the interest of low-cost housing to have people become homeless or have to leave our community,” testified state Rep. John Gannon, a Democrat representing District 17, which includes the community in question.

Many of those who testified also participated in a rally Friday at the apartment complex where residents and housing activists gathered in favor of protecting the apartment complex.

After a hearing that lasted until about 1:30 on Tuesday morning, the commission voted to recommend denial of the project. Commissioners Meredith Stead and Milt Gillespie voted for denial, while Commissioner Janelle Finfrock voted against it. (Commissioner Jennifer Stevens recused herself after the public testimony after learning her husband was part of the real estate company involved in the deal; Commissioners Bob Schafer and Jim Bratnober were not present.)

“It seems to me it is in the city’s best interest to not do this until the BSU master plan is in and we’ve had a chance to talk about that,” Gillespie said.

Finfrock said she was leaning toward deferring the project rather than denying it. She said she felt the zoning was appropriate but she said she worried that the Ada County Highway District had not fully weighed in on the project.

The final decision — which was considered to be made in quorum because Stevens was still present even if she didn’t vote — was met with applause from those who sat through the commission’s seven-hour meeting to hear the results.

“I feel like maybe they listened to what is the right thing to do,” Kay Stone said to the Statesman after the hearing had ended. Stone, who said she lives a few blocks from the proposed project, did not testify but came to support her neighbors who did.

The commission’s recommendation will now go before the Boise City Council. A council hearing has not yet been set.

To read Hayley Harding's story, check out the Idaho Statesman!

Hayley covers local government for the Idaho Statesman with a primary focus on Boise. Previously, she worked for the Salisbury Daily Times, the Hartford Courant, the Denver Post and McClatchy’s D.C. bureau. Hayley graduated from Ohio University with degrees in journalism and political science.If you like seeing stories like this, please consider supporting our work with a digital subscription to the Idaho Statesman.