Leveled Houses and “Rogue Duplexes”

neighbors oppose loss of single-family neighborhoods through leveling single-family houses and resurrecting “rogue duplexes” near the university while Boise State and SENA write to preserve single-family neighborhoods

Boise State plans to tear down four houses that could instead be rehabilitated to family residence, foregoing possibilities to forge or rehab well-maintained homes for ownership or lease to faculty, staff, and working people in need of affordable housing. Models for doing so exist in other states’ and cities’ regulations. Instead, BSU is replacing houses with irrigated lawns, making pathways for foot traffic as placeholders for future expansion.

Boise State made this decision in spite of its support last year of a city “emergency ordinance” against such “rogue duplexes,” which private developers had been building under cover of variances and definitions in city code. Boise State’s more recent, September 21 letter to Boise's Planning Division cites the city’s “Blueprint Boise” in support of single-family neighborhoods surrounding the university, noting that preserving single-family neighborhoods is in the interest of the university as well as of surrounding residents. 

The City Council passed the emergency ordinance as a moratorium that has since expired, opening the door to administrative approvals in the city’s planning department of similar “rogue duplexes.” Consequently, SENA wrote an appeal to the City Council as developers once again took advantage. At its October 27 meeting, SENA also supported residents’ petition drive asking the City of Boise to halt “duplex” and “multi-room” construction around the university, to honor Blueprint Boise, and to stop issuing variances that allow rogue developments that are, once again, underway.

While residents welcome Boise State’s support of existing neighborhoods, the current BSU plan remains to tear down homes for irrigated lawns. In a letter by state representative John Gannon to Boise State officials, Gannon urged reconsideration in the interest of affordable and sustainable housing.

Boise State’s September letter spoke to the need for defined overlay zones and corridors that still preserve single-family neighborhoods. SENA wrote to the City Council protesting the re-proliferation of overbuilt housing, privatized dormitories masquerading as what the Idaho Statesman only recently headlined as “rogue duplexes.” The viability of neighborhoods surrounding Boise State occasioned these appeals from the university, SENA, and residents.

The letter from Boise State supports planning less driven by whatever a developer or Boise State can afford, and more by a proactive, rational, and predictable strategy that adheres to the city’s commitment: preserving and improving single-family residences and affordable housing for families, not boarding houses and dormitories using other names and workarounds.

The “Blueprint Boise” comprehensive plan and Boise State now both call for preserving single-family neighborhoods near Boise State. Given recent developments, and even though a call for bids to tear down houses went out, it is wise for the larger community, if not for Boise State’s reserve inventory, to halt tear-downs to instead offer faculty, staff and single families the option to rehab these homes. Should the homes fall to the bulldozers, the university, the city, and the state need to join in a rebuilding effort that comports with existing neighborhoods instead of further eradicating them. To quote BSU’s letter: “We believe there is value in providing housing choice for students, while at the same time protecting the qualities and characteristics of Boise's traditional single-family neighborhoods. Ultimately, these areas should remain appealing to the general community, which includes Boise State faculty and staff.”