BOISE — The combination of a tough economic situation and the Treasure Valley’s growing affordability crisis pulled Nichole Hoynacki’s family apart, but next week she and her four children will be together once again.
Her family will be one of the first families to move into Windy Court, Idaho’s first affordable housing development made out of shipping containers. The small, four-unit neighborhood off Horseshoe Bend Road in northwest Boise provides four-bedroom housing for extremely low-income residents, which is some of the most in-demand housing in the valley.
Hoynacki, 40, is a single mother who struggled to support her children after a stroke on top of other health problems put pressure on her to make ends meet in 2017. Since then, she has floated through several “creative living situations,” which included homelessness. For the majority of the last two years, she and her children have not been able to all live together, but moving into Windy Court means a roof over all of their heads.
“This is more than just an affordable housing development,” she said to a small crowd at Windy Court’s open house Tuesday. “Although this is really pretty neat, this is a place of reunification for a mother and her children, as we are under three different roofs right now until we are able to move in on June 3.”
Windy Court is a collaboration among nonprofit LEAP Charities, the Idaho Housing and Finance Association, a private land donor and shipping container home construction company IndieDwell. Together, the partnership created four, four-bedroom affordable homes for families with rent around $843, including utilities. In the application process, the nonprofit LEAP Charities prioritized applicants with elderly family members or those with disabilities.
“We’re always on the lookout — is there an unmet need in the community,” LEAP Charities President Bart Cochran told the Idaho Press this month while the finishing touches were being put on the site.
Applicants were required to make 30 percent of the area median income or below, which translates to an annual income of $25,100 for a family of four, or $965 per biweekly paycheck before taxes.
The four homes were constructed by local company IndieDwell from steel shipping containers. Cochran said this construction method kept costs down and ensured durability for the future. The entire development was constructed for $939,000. Funding came from the Idaho Housing and Finance Association through the U.S. Treasury’s National Housing Trust Fund.
On top of the $843 monthly rent, residents must put down a $1,000 deposit with their application. Section 8 vouchers are accepted. Cochran said no prospective tenants had issues with affording the deposit, and similar deposit amounts are common in property management, both nonprofit or for-profit.
The shipping container homes feature four small bedrooms, two bathrooms and an open living room and kitchen area. The front has large windows, allowing in plenty of natural light. The homes are ADA-accessible and built with sustainability in mind to keep utility costs down.
Cochran said the goal was to make the homes last as long as possible and make them a high-quality place to live for the entirety of the 30-year period required to be low-income housing by IHFA. The project was designed with durability and low maintenance costs in mind, with improvements such as solid core doors instead of hollow ones to prevent the need for future repairs.
“We were looking at dated affordable housing, housing that had been in the system for awhile,” he said. “We could see a lot of the common pitfalls that were expensive to repair and maintain that we wanted to design around.”
LEAP just secured funding to purchase the land next door to Windy Court to build another four units, doubling the size of the development. Cochran said applications to live in Windy Court were only open for a short time before the list of applicants far exceeded the number of spots.
In the fourth quarter of 2018, the rental vacancy rate in Ada County was 2.6 percent, according to the Southwest Idaho Chapter of the National Association of Residential Property Managers — well below the healthy range of 5 to 7 percent.
At the open house, Hoynacki acknowledged the enormity of the affordable housing issue but maintained that if small projects like Windy Court keep cropping up, it will make a difference for those in need.
“My hope is my story will help create more affordable housing solutions for Idahoans,” she said. “My request to anyone who will listen is we continue to work together to come up with creative solutions, especially for those that are income-stretched like myself.”