BOISE, Idaho — Saint Alphonsus is one of many employers seeing the issues of affordable housing and the labor shortage overlap, which is why they say the Workforce Housing Fund established during the 2022 Legislative Session is needed.
“As we try to bring nurses or other people in, it’s not just an affordability issue, it’s an availability issue, even being able to find a place,” Corey Surber with Saint Alphonsus said.
They’re not the only ones seeing these issues overlap.
“We think that the workforce housing fund will open the doors for a lot of Idahoans in the workforce whether that’s first responders, or health care workers or retail workers and educators,” Jason Lantz with the Idaho Housing and Finance Association said.
Two bills were signed into law during the recent legislative session to provide $50 Million for workforce housing.
This is meant to be gap financing for developers, something many states offer, but until this bill, wasn’t really a resource for Idaho developers.
The Idaho Housing and Finance Association is figuring out what implementation will look like.
“While keeping in mind that the need to use these funds in an equitable way throughout the state,” Lantz said.
They’re planning to make funding decisions in August and hope construction will begin in 2023.
Deanna Watson, the Executive Director of the Boise City/Ada County Housing Authorities says this funding is helpful, but it doesn’t solve the problem.
“We can’t afford to relax our efforts because this thing got passed that's one time funding and once it’s gone, it’s gone,” she said. “That maybe will produce 300, 500 units in an area where we’re 20,000 down."
Saint Alphonsus said they’re pursuing short-term options like providing rental assistance to employees and looking for long-term options to solve this problem.
“We are in conversations with other employers about who might be potentially interested in partnering, if we decide to build something together,” Surber said.
Saint Alphonsus has invested in affordable housing projects in the Treasure Valley for years, including the Caritas Commons housing community, built by LEAP.
Another project currently under construction is the Canyon Terrace Apartment complex, which is next to the Saint Alphonsus Medical Center in Nampa. This is designed as affordable housing for the community, with 15 units set aside from families experiencing homelessness in the Nampa School district.
Some Saint Alphonsus employees have expressed in interest in getting on a wait list to rent a unit in this complex, though it's not designed as workforce housing for Saint Alphonsus.