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Affordable housing for Boise's poorest? How a church is helping to build some

Andrea Teres-Martinez, Idaho Statesman on

Published in Religious News

BOISE, Idaho -- As the housing crisis in Idaho's Treasure Valley weighs down on Idahoans struggling with housing insecurity, a new affordable housing project plans to build homes for low-income families in a nontraditional place: underused church land.

Collister United Methodist Church in Boise and Leap Housing, a nonprofit that creates affordable housing, have partnered to build Taft Homes on unused land at the church property at 4400 W. Taft St., launching the first project of its kind in Boise.

The two houses are part of Leap’s ‘Yes in God’s Backyard’ program, which came about shortly after Leap’s initial meetings with Collister. The project aims to partner with faith-based organizations to turn their underused land into affordable housing for the community.

“We are essentially wanting to serve the same people,” CEO of Leap Housing Bart Cochran told the Statesman in a phone interview. “They have the land but they don’t have the technical know-how of how to create affordable housing. And so we bring that technical know-how, they bring the land, and together we create housing.”

The partners broke ground for two houses across the parking lot from Collister United Methodist on April 25. Each 1,009-square-foot home is planned to have four bedrooms, two baths, a one-car garage and a private backyard. The space between the homes will become an outdoor community space.

The project will bring homes to families who earn at or below 30% of the area median income, which for a family of four is $27,750 or lower. Potential tenants will be referred by CATCH, a social service nonprofit that helps homeless families in the Boise area find housing. CATCH stands for Charitable Assistance to Community’s Homeless.

 

Each four-bedroom home would rent for an estimated $889 including utilities. Leap says that is about 40% of the cost of renting a similar home on the market in Boise.

To ensure that the homes would be affordable to more vulnerable families in the community, Collister United Methodist leased the land to Leap Housing for 50 years at $1 per year.

“It’s essentially free land,” Cochran said. “One dollar a year is not a lot of money.”

Joseph Bankard, the pastor at Collister United Methodist, which serves an estimated 150 members, said faith organizations have a responsibility to help support the needs of their community. One of the largest needs faced by people in the Treasure Valley is finding affordable housing.

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