Boise, Idaho's Population Boom: How It's Impacting Politics

As one of America's fastest-growing cities, Boise has seen an influx of people from all over looking for a better quality of life. This influx has had an undeniable impact on politics in Treasure Valley as well as on housing affordability.

Boise, Idaho's Population Boom: How It's Impacting Politics

Spend a few days in Boise and you'll quickly understand why it has been one of the fastest-growing cities in the country for the past decade. The city's low cost of living, impressive variety of breweries and restaurants, and diverse recreational activities are just a few of the reasons people of all ages choose to call Boise home. With the population of the Boise metropolitan area expected to exceed one million residents by 2040, it's worth exploring who is migrating to the area and what this projected population growth can tell us about the future of Treasure Valley. According to COMPASS Metro Boise population estimates (updated April 2002), when locals were asked to indicate when Boise first became popular, many referred to the July 1992 edition of Outside magazine which featured a photo of cyclists touring the historic Hyde Park in the North End, along with the caption “Where to Live”. At that time, the population of Boise was around 126,000.

Since then, Boise has seen tremendous growth and development. For example, trail users, land activists, and government groups came together in the 1990s to turn the informal trails of 90 miles of rolling Boise into something bigger and more sustainable for all users. This resulted in the Ridge to Rivers trail system now having nearly 200 miles of trails suitable for biking, walking, running and even horseback riding. The city's comparatively lower housing costs, low initial costs, shorter trips and slower pace of life have only increased Boise's appeal as a recreational destination. This explains why Boise's population has skyrocketed from 125,738 to 236,310 residents since the early 1990s.

In the past decade alone, the city experienced a 9.3 percent increase in growth according to the U. S. Department of State. Comparable cities in the Northwest such as Spokane, Washington and Salt Lake City, Utah experienced growth of only 6% and 7.6%, respectively. The skyrocketing housing costs in California are leading some residents to flee to neighboring states including Idaho (which in turn increases home prices here).

In other words, rural Idaho residents are flocking to the state's largest metropolitan area likely due to its education and employment opportunities. We can reasonably assume that more people will want to live in Boise no matter how beautiful it is. This means that demand for housing in Boise and the Treasure Valley metropolitan area isn't going away anytime soon. Much of the agricultural land in the valley is expected to be converted into new construction to try to meet this demand for housing. As a result, housing shortages and high prices are likely to be the region's new normal for the foreseeable future. This can be great news for those looking to sell in this market but it also makes housing affordability a more pressing issue in Treasure Valley.

It can also make it harder for first-time homebuyers to find something within their price range. At 29 years old, Idaho and its politics are a relief to me and I hope it will continue to be that way where I can start a family and be successful. It's easy to assume that rapid migration to Idaho would tend to moderate their politics but this hasn't been the case. Idaho maintained its Republican political base until a decade after the start of this century when population growth due to immigration began to alter dynamics. Vanessa Fry is acting director of the Idaho Policy Institute and associate research professor at the Boise State School of Public Service. She has spoken about Idaho's demographic change to several groups including the Idaho Legislature's Farms, Ranches and Timber Caucus, Clearwater Economic Development Association, Partners for Rural America, Idaho Section of American Planning Association, Idaho Rural Association and Panhandle Area Council. Last fall she told KTVB in Boise that Idaho is second only to Texas in places preferred by her customers who left a blue state usually California to settle in a red state. According to an analysis by University of Idaho using novel data more than a quarter of Idaho's growing population of 1.8 million is new to the state.

From its residential campus in Moscow University of Idaho serves state through educational centers in Boise Coeur d'Alene and Idaho Falls nine research and extension centers and extension offices in 42 counties. I will vote to keep Idaho in red and defend its ideals as will my family members who also recently moved there. As one of America's fastest-growing cities, Boise has seen an influx of people from all over looking for a better quality of life. This influx has had an undeniable impact on politics in Treasure Valley as well as on housing affordability. With more people moving into Idaho each year from other states - particularly California - it is clear that this trend will continue for some time yet. It remains to be seen how this population growth will shape politics in Treasure Valley but it is certain that it will have an effect on housing affordability as well as on other aspects of life here.

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