‘What about us locals?”: Only 24% of North Idaho familes say they can afford to buy a home, fear for the future

COUER D’ALENE, Idaho — North Idaho’s housing market is reaching ridiculous prices, with prices practically kicking out people who can’t imagine living anywhere else.

The median price for housing in Kootenai County is now more than $500,000. Longtime Idahoan families are unsure how much longer they’ll be able to afford to stay.

“It feels like all the locals are going to get moved out and then all the people from out of town are going to now live here,” said Sarah Frades, a renter from Coeur d’Alene.

Frades and her husband tried to buy this year but were priced out by a cash buyer who offered $100,000 over asking price. Now, they’re struggling to even keep up with their rent which is around $3,000/month for a 4-bedroom home.

Coeur d’Alene’s housing market is in a huge crisis. On top of high home prices, rent is also rising tremendously.

According to a new housing affordability study for the region, approximately 44% of Kootenai County households cannot afford to pay market rent rate from the latest findings in October 2021.

Steven Peterson, a Regional Economist at the University of Idaho, conducted this study after he was commissioned by local stakeholders who are concerned about the rapid rate of growth. He found only 24 percent of households can afford to buy a home in Kootenai County. Back in 2016, 75 percent of families could afford a home in the area.

“We’re known for a low-cost state, affordability, rural, so to see housing prices like that are just a shock,” said Peterson.

He says updating zoning to create more multi-plexes could help bring down costs, but rapid construction won’t be a quick fix.

While the COVID-19 pandemic played a role in these increasing home values, Peterson says it was destined since the 2007 recession.

“What precipitated this crisis was this massive backlog in houses that should have been constructed but were not because of the damage to the construction industry,” said Peterson.

Nationwide, we’re in a severe housing shortage, but Idaho’s demand is much greater than other parts of the country which is driving up prices. Peterson adds how Idaho’s had the fastest growing housing prices from 2018 to 2021.

The American Dream is becoming less and less affordable, now more than ever for North Idahoans.

“To think we need $800,000 to $900,000 for a starter house — it seems unattainable,” said Jeremiah Fanning, who’s also priced out of the housing market.

“What about us locals?” asked Frades.

You can view Peterson’s housing affordability study here.

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