No Rain, No Rainbows

The growing demand for Eastern Idaho housing

Published online: Apr 20, 2021 Articles, Home And Garden, Lifestyle Renee Spurgeon
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We are in quite the pickle with the demand for people in Eastern Idaho growing in conjunction with the demand for housing. Our sleepy little corner of the country has quickly become the hot spot for transplants spanning many states. 

Once considered a rural western territory where Lewis and Clark navigated the Snake River with frigid winters, Idaho has become an overnight sensation. We are the rising economic star of America. It has become apparent over the last little while that even the other states are trying to keep up with our weather, who could have predicted that? We are trendsetters. 

But as the fast-spiking upward trend of transplants pour into the area, what housing solutions are we able to provide? 

We have large government contracts that have been awarded. Increasing remote work options mean that people can work from anywhere—and they want to work from Idaho. Retired individuals specifically from the West Coast all have a magnetic pull for a variety of reasons to the entire state. 

People are returning to their roots after moving away. We can certainly talk about politics, taxes, our amazing recreation opportunities, quality of life and all the desirable traits on a highlight reel that is run continuously by our local community developers, but where in the world are we going to put these people? It is a major concern for our city officials who are task forcing and meeting and brainstorming the heck out of possible solutions. Insert the need for more space with extended family, friends and boomerang children in our currently available structures, a handbook for a peaceful existence in that space and innovation prevails.

Johannah Thompson is the brains and the beauty of The Avant Garden & Home, a locally owned business created directly out of necessity. 

As the country fell into isolation and a housing crisis, Jo saw a specific need to create more, new, interesting and useful spaces inside and out of our current dwellings. Jo has created a thriving home business around the business of home. Her personal space has been amazingly remodeled, with every corner and seemingly unusable wall becoming an opportunity for organization and purpose. Her skillset is not limited to the interior of a home as her vast knowledge of plants and outdoor space, lighting, colors and shade that make even someone like myself look like I know what I am doing in the yard. 

“Now is the perfect time to do the projects you’ve been putting off,” Johannah said. “Bringing family members into your home for the short term or even long term, means changing things up. To accommodate more people, you’ve got to find ways to maximize your space.” 

A few easy ways to do that are by decluttering, adding a light fresh coat of paint to your walls and rearranging furniture to create better flow, therefore maximizing your space. 

“Once the weather warms up, creating living areas outside not only expands the square footage feel of your home, but it also creates a relaxing getaway right in your own backyard,” she added. 

While Jo is busy making the world beautiful, organized and fed (her amazing baking skills take the cake), on the flip side we need materials and contractors to support our remodeling endeavors, an ever-deteriorating segment created by our national and local needs. Supplies are low and in high demand, thus becoming more costly as a result. Local builders and contractors are unable to nail down pricing more than 30 days in advance causing further stress on our housing situation.

John Sirpless, a 40-year industry veteran with over 20 years at Johnson Brothers (the 5th generation owned and operated supplier of windows, doors, millwork, and hardware), has never seen a market quite like this. 

“The supply chain has never been so disjointed; even through 10 nationwide recessions, it’s never been so upside down,” Sirpless said. “Our demand for finished products and raw materials has never been higher and we can’t get them. We have hardwood producers choosing not to ramp up with the demand for two reasons, labor shortage and operating profitably.” 

Sirpless explained that transportation and shipping may have a longer lasting impact on finished products that go into building. Manufacturers that have increased production can’t get trucks to deliver materials. Meanwhile, truckload freight costs have nearly doubled in the last year. 

“While business is booming, I wouldn’t say it’s more profitable,” Sirpless concluded. “Maybe that’s the same decision the forest harvesters had to make. We all must stay positive regardless of the market, but we do need the youth of today to be inspired to work in the trades, to know that hard work does pay off and that they can be the solution for our future.”

Multi-generational housing has been a topic for decades as the preparation for aging boomers, the need to house adult children through seasons of life, and nontraditional family units evolving, we are tasked with the job of making do with what we have, a lesson that has essentially hibernated in this age of excess. 

As I consider this, I am reminded of “The Wonder Years,” probably one of the greatest depictions of life in the late 1960s, where Kevin’s nostalgia as a grown adult and narrator reflects a time of lessons and importance. Where fixing what is broken rather than replacing it was a simple and comprehensive way of life. Maybe we, too, are learning the art of nostalgia and purpose during unprecedented times. No rain, no rainbows, I suppose. 

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