The Challenge: In Idaho’s West Central Mountains, we have a critical shortage of housing for the local workforce. We need more units. We need more types/variety of units in more places.

Barriers: We have a short building season. Construction costs are elevated due to demand and a shortage of skilled labor. Land prices have been elevated as well. NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) can kill projects. Deed restrictions are difficult to attain without significant developer incentives. Sewer capacity is a major challenge in some communities.

SOME (not all) solutions: In the current environment, we believe greater consideration for modular and more efficient development methods can be retrofitted for additional dwelling units (garage or free-standing), under 4-unit development and 5+ unit development. Modular, small footprint and ‘lean’ building tactics can drive down total build cost, cost per square foot and/or allow for profitable developments without needing subsidies or City incentives. We need to celebrate these opportunities while educating the public on their benefits and beneficial design elements.

Background: On August 14th, 2018, 70 community members, partners and stakeholders from various disciplines in housing development gathered in McCall, Idaho to aggregate the known and future resources available for creating more local (workforce) housing in the West Central Mountains. Discussions about incentives, financing, entitlements, due diligence, modular and appraisal all dovetailed into a series of breakout sessions where attendees had an opportunity to share what they thought were opportunities, challenges and next steps, relative to three critical perspectives:

  1. That of the developer/land owner/Realtor (private)
  2. That of the planner/government agency (public)
  3. That of the market disruptor (public or private innovators)

The end result of this event was aggregation of a tremendous amount of information, which we are in the process of vetting with our partners and adding to our website. Full findings will be published in the next 60-90 days

Due diligence for developers/landowners

Getting to know your project and its environment may seem like a no-brainer, but knowing what to look out for can prove challenging. Below we outline a due diligence process that can help you to determine the viability of your housing development. The neighborhood meeting is critical and we encourage multiple (if needed) preliminary meetings with surrounding neighbors to make sure you aren’t surprised in the process. This will save you lots of money, time and stress in the long term. Have a soft concept to start. Be willing to listen. Preface the reality of the parcel with zoning realities to level set expectations.

  1. Determine scope and scale of development: what, where, when
  2. Evaluate market need for product/type and develop a draft proforma and budget–both are working documents
  3. Schedule a pre-application meeting with your local planning and zoning officials
  4. Determine your sewer, water and power requirements, as well as any challenges with groundwater and floodplain
  5. Engage an architect or engineer to talk through a game plan
  6. Invite neighbors to discuss what you have in mind
  7. Listen to neighbors and hear out their concerns and feedback–allow them to buy in to your project with the knowledge that you probably won’t be able to bring everyone along
  8. After getting a sense of the opportunities and restrictions for your project, revisit your cost analysis to make sure everything pencils
  9. Have your architect/engineer go to work with a good sense of what is attainable
  10. Enter the entitlement process (see below) to complete the development and building process
  11. Be highly engaged in the construction management planning and execution to avoid surprises
  12. Stay ahead of your marketing and leasing opportunities to make sure you are maximizing your proformance

Development process with the city/county

Generally, in most communities, the development process looks something like this:

  1. Pre-application meeting to determine administrative process and field questions
  2. Submit application and remit fees
  3. City Planning & Zoning Administrator’s staff review and recommendations
  4. City Planning & Zoning Commission (P&Z) approval, if not a staff level approval
  5. City Council approval, if not approved in P&Z or at the staff level
  6. Issuance of building permits
  7. City Building Inspector verifies that all elements are done to locally adopted codes, structural, and State plumbing, HVAC, and electrical requirements
  8. City Building Inspector final sign-off of project and issuance of Certificate of Occupancy

In Valley County (outside of city limits), there is only one zone–Multiple Use–so development applications are processed under conditional use permit, as long as the development fits in well with surrounding uses.

Some strategies on the horizon in the West Central Mountains

  • Just say yes (YIMBY)–form a coalition of supporters for good projects
  • Lobbying for funding of the Idaho State Housing Trust Fund
  • Get a modular project built to pave the way for future success
  • Have a conversation about ADUs with strategies to maintain long-term rental tenure for locals
  • Enhanced CCR’s that discourage Short Term Rentals
  • Engage business community members in housing strategy–collaboration opportunities
  • PR campaign to get word out about generational ideal shifts around home size and type
    • Market downsizing
    • Convert open/vacant homes
    • Treat this as a community issue
  • Impact investing platform or similar available to local community members/land owners
  • Builders collaboration for skills development in the workforce
  • Succession/legacy conversions around downsizing
  • Consistent process, incentives and standards at the P&Z level

Helpful LInks

  • Land Development Guide: file:///home/chronos/u-f7e5a237b758fd4678739c9204d9a1de50805c27/Downloads/LDPO_LDChecklist_20141121010757%20(1).pdf
  • Market research: https://wcmedc.org/community-data/

Key Contacts


City Planning & Zoning Building Dept. Public Works Who to start with Website
Cascade 208.382.4279 208.315.0691 208.382.4279   https://cascadeid.us/city-government/planning-zoning/
Donnelly 208.325.8859 208.325.8859 208.325.8859 Lori Clemens http://www.cityofdonnelly.org/government/planning-zoning/
McCall 208.634.4256 208.634.8648 208.634.8943 Morgan Bessaw https://www.mccall.id.us/planning-zoning
New Meadows 208.347.3271 208.347.3271 208.347.3271   http://www.newmeadowsidaho.us/administration/planning-zoning/
Valley County 208.382.7115 208.382.7114 N/A Cynda Herrick http://www.co.valley.id.us/departments/planning-zoning/
Adams County 208.253.4561 208.253.6125 N/A Wendy Green http://co.adams.id.us/departments/planning-zoning/

Housing Data