Boise, Idaho Turning NIMBYs into YIMBYs

“Good things come in small packages” is something I’ve heard all my life and what Boise, Idaho is doing in small packages is something every city and town in the US should emulate for affordable housing.

In Boise, Idaho, NeighborWorks prides itself on turning NIMBYs (Not in My Back Yard) into YIMBYs (Yes in My Back Yard). The CDFI has taken a unique approach to affordable housing, building what they call “pocket neighborhoods” that are embedded seamlessly into the surrounding community and have access to public transit, schools and green space.

Modcoach Note: All pictures in this article are from a modular pocket village in New England

While the organization has been building these communities since 1996, the need has become increasingly urgent according to Mitchell Lee, director of grant development for NeighborWorks. “We’re in the top five least affordable housing markets in the country,” he says.

The pocket neighborhoods consist of highly energy-efficient, single-family homes housed close together around an open space, usually a park or garden. The mixed-income communities usually have no more than 12 homes, allowing neighbors to get to know each other by maintaining their shared green space.

The houses typically cost in the mid-$300,000s. NeighborWorks offers assistance with down payments and other home-buying needs. NeighborWorks has a $5 million line of credit from Community Capital for construction.

The placement of the pocket neighborhoods is strategic as well. They’re typically placed in neighborhoods close to public transportation and schools, but lacking in density. They also pick locations where the pocket neighborhood homes are of a similar value and quality of the surrounding community. The goal is for the pocket neighborhoods is not to stand out, but to blend into the surrounding community and add density “in a way that respects the existing neighborhood,” Lee says.

“We want people to drive by a neighborhood and ask, ‘Which one is the affordable house?’” Lee says. “We want them to be completely baffled by that and not be able to point out if it’s an affordable house. We want houses that look good and are easy to maintain. They’re not just affordable right now, but they stay affordable over the years.”

NeighborWorks holds community meetings with residents of the surrounding community throughout the process, and find that locals are often initially apprehensive of the development, but over time come to change their minds.

“Whenever you’re building, you get a lot of nimbyism, ‘not in my backyard,’ and especially if you say something like affordable housing,” Lee says. “Because everyone thinks it’s going to destroy their home value. It’s going to lead to overcrowding and all that sort of thing.”

Gary Fleisher, the Modcoach

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Gary Fleisher

Gary Fleisher, “The Mod Coach”, has been entrenched in the offsite construction industry for most of his life. Having started his career in the lumber industry, Gary spent decades working with manufactured and modular home producers and homebuilders. For the past 15 years his blog and LinkedIn postings have introduced thousands to the benefits of factory-built construction and have served as a forum for industry professionals to share insights and perspectives. Gary lives in Hagerstown, MD with his wife, Peg.