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Roundtable Discussions

Representative Darrel Bolz reported:
Although Southwest Idaho received some rain in late spring and seems to have avoided the drought that was anticipated earlier, there are still a number of Idaho Counties that are in a drought situation.  This could affect the economy to some extent as we all know agriculture is the basis of our economy.

On the economic front, Caldwell is experiencing more inquiries for businesses than it has previously.  It has had 22 inquiries so far this year with about half of those resulting in visits.  Caldwell also established a Foreign Trade Zone and has 2 agricultural businesses interested in it presently.  Both of these are positive signs not only for Caldwell, but for Idaho.

Ann Joslin, Idaho Commission for Libraries reported:
Read To Me early literacy program

  • Sponsoring statewide summer reading programs in public libraries and outreach locations, including “Literacy in the Park” in partnership with the Idaho Food Bank’s “Picnic in the Park.”
  • Reached more than 95,000 kids in summer reading programs in 2013, hope to reach 100,000 in 2014.
  • Recently awarded $200,000 to 49 elementary school libraries for books to address a serious need. Our survey showed that 28% of elementary school libraries receive less than $100 a year from their district to purchase books. Research shows that when kids have access to books, they read them and their reading proficiency improves. Many Idaho kids don’t have age-appropriate reading material at home; taking books home from the school library is the most efficient way to get them.
  • Piloting a project to see if keeping elementary school libraries open during the summer for kids to check out books helps prevent the documented “summer slide” loss of learning. Six schools in high poverty areas are participating.

Broadband in public libraries

  • Continuing to look for ways to improve broadband access (higher speed, affordable cost) in Idaho’s 143 public library buildings, both to the door and wifi access within the building and surrounding the building.
  • 70% of Idaho public libraries report they are the only source of free Internet access in their communities. Since residential broadband is under-deployed in Idaho, adequate and affordable Internet access at the public library is essential for many Idaho communities.
  • Monitoring FCC’s (Federal Communications Commission) process to modernize the E-rate program (discounts for Internet service to schools and libraries), meeting with FCC staff and Commissioners.

Idaho Library Makerspaces

  • Second year of a pilot project aiming to get teens into the library with “stealth” programming around STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, math) content. This project is getting national attention.

After School Alliance

  • Partnered with Mountain States Group and several other agencies on a grant application to form a statewide after/out of school alliance. Many Idaho public libraries are already gathering places after school; partnering with other agencies that offer after school and summer activities should improve and expand existing programs. Grant awards will be announced this fall.

Sustainable communities

Long term initiative to build the capacity of public libraries to actively participate in local community-building.

Workforce development

Just-passed federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act recognizes the role public libraries can and are playing in providing workforce development resources in their local communities. The Commission looks forward to continuing collaboration with the Idaho Department of Labor in this area.

Tim Petersen, Office of Senator Jim Risch, reported:
Currently, the Senate as of this week is working through the Bipartisan Sportsman’s Act of which Senator Risch is an original co-sponsor. This legislation in current form and pending additional amendments will address some key federal permits as they relate to hunting migratory birds and transportation of trophy game. Additionally, this legislation seeks to open hunting access on federal lands and explore options for increasing ability and lands for hunting and fishing purposes. One provision of this legislation is the development of shoot targets and marksmanship ranges being built on federal land. I know specifically that the city of Riggins has been working on this for years and this legislation should help provide an avenue for finalizing their plans. In its proposed form, the Senator is supportive of the increased access, more streamlined and accurate permitting and opening federal land for shooting ranges and additional hunting; but this will be contingent on the amendments that could be considered that would in any way attack the 2nd Amendment.

Senator Risch is continuing his work as the Ranking Member of the Small Business and Entrepreneurship   Committee by fighting over burdensome regulations. The ability for Idaho small businesses to grow unimpeded by the federal government is paramount to the growth of our economy. He is able to use his position to celebrate and recognize Idaho small businesses as an example for the country and to encourage more Idahoans to engage in the entrepreneurship spirit.

Lastly, the role that Senator Risch serves with his duties on the Foreign Relations and Intelligence committees has kept the situation in Russia, Ukraine, Israel, Iraq and Iran constantly on his radar. On those same lines, the current illegal immigration situation and growing concern for the flooding of children and families from Central America is of great concern. The President just this week request congress to approve $3.7 billion in emergency funding to address this situation. There will be lively debate over this request and the question of current enforcement of our laws will be at the forefront.

John Meyers, HUD, reported:
HUD’s current priority is The Mayor’s challenge to end Veterans Homelessness by 2015.  Over 100 cities throughout the national including two in Idaho (Pocatello and Blackfoot) have accepted the challenge.

Our major resource in this challenge is our VASH (    ) Vouchers.  There are currently 208 vouchers authorized for Idaho.  170 (81%) of them are being fully utilized.  26 (12.5%) have been issued and the recipients are looking for housing but have not yet found it, and 12 are unused.

On July 24th, HUD (FHA), USDA Rural Development and IHFA are partnering to put on a “lending update” workshop for lenders, Real Estate Professionals and other mortgage professionals in Idaho Falls. The event will start at 8:30 am at the Hilton Garden Inn.

HUD is sponsoring a series of “Summer Smarts Webinars in the next few months.  They are for HUD grant recipients but anyone wanting to sit in can come to the HUD office.

  • July 23 Funding for the Long Haul
  • August 20 Big Money
  • September 3 Implementation Tips for Smaller Places
  • September 17 Demonstrating Economic Resilience

On September 16th in Pocatello, HUD is organizing a “Health Opportunities in Energy Audits and Upgrades” workshop.  Starting at 8:00 am at 911 N 7th Ave, Pocatello.

Kristy Bain, Small Business Administration, reported:  

  • SBA continues to remove barriers to encourage lenders using the guarantees to increase the flow of capital to all small businesses.  As of July 1, 7(a) loans less than $350,000 will use a predictive business credit scoring model and removing our minimum debt service coverage.  This doesn’t mean every loan model reduces costs and is credit-based which ensure the risk characteristics, not socio-economic factors, determine who is deemed creditworthy.  The goal is to get more small loans into the hands of entrepreneurs, especially the underserved.
  • We are waiting to see if the guaranty fee waivers for loans under $150,000 will expire Sept. 30th or be extended into the new fiscal year.
  • As of 5/31/2014, we had 115 loans in Boise District where fees were waived under this initiative, and 76 loans of less than $50,000.  This total is even higher if you include north Idaho’s loans.  The amount of fees saved by borrowers totaled only $90,000 so not a big effect on the ability of the insurance pool to pay on these loans were also waived, allowing them to retain the ½% on the interest rate for the life of the loan, encouraging our lenders to process these smaller loans and get capital to our local and family owned businesses.

Representative Donna Pence, Idaho State Legislature, reported:
Clif Bar is coming to Idaho.  They are slow at the process of getting here.  Camas, Lemhi, and Latah Counties will probably need drought funds.

Laura Smith, Idaho Central Credit Union, came as a guest for Stephanie Cook, INL, reported:
The Idaho Central Credit Union, is a state chartered credit union headquartered in Chubbuck, Idaho. ICCU is the largest credit union in Idaho, with numerous branches serving more than 147,000 members and assets of just over $1.4 billion. ICCU's governing agency is the Idaho Department of Finance. Their 21 branch office locations are in Blackfoot, Boise, Burley, Caldwell, Chubbuck, Eagle, Idaho Falls, Meridian, Nampa, Pocatello, Twin Falls.  They will soon be opening a new branch in Rexburg and another one on Hit Road in Idaho Falls.  ICCU was awarded the title The Best Place to Work in Idaho by the Idaho Business Review.  This is the second year in a row that they have been named that for large companies in Idaho.

Roni Adkins, USDA – Rural Development, reported:
Rural Development is regionalizing human resources, admin and contracting services, as well as architectural, engineering, and appraisal services.  There are 18 states in the northern region that will share the services of these staff members.  Due to government downsizing, many states do not have adequate support in these areas.

Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, Krysta Harden, visited Idaho in June during Homeownership Month.   She visited a large family in Middleton who would not have been able to purchase a home without RD’s subsidized housing program.

Housing loan numbers are down this year, but that seems to be the same industry wide.  The direct subsidized programs are suffering due to full time employee losses; just don’t have the capacity to get all the work done with the few staff we have left.  We centralized our loan processes for both programs to try to overcome some of the shortfalls, but we continue to lose more housing staff to other positions.

Two NOFA’s were published for Guaranteed Multi-Family Housing Program and Farm Labor Housing.

Foreclosures are stable and REO’s are selling.

Art Beal, Idaho association of RC&D Councils, reported:
You are invited to attend the Western Idaho Biomass Energy Workshop at the Council High School on July 29-30, 2014.

Date/Time: Tuesday, July 29th, 2014. 9:00am to 4:00pm. Facility tours will be held on July 30th.

Location: Council High School, 101 E. Bleeker Street, Council, ID 83612

Registration: FREE!

Meals: Lunch will be provided for all participants.

Please join us and find out how successful biomass energy systems are designed and managed, and discuss opportunities for new projects in western Idaho. Community members, developers, and experts from across the region will come together to promote biomass utilization as a way to lower heating costs, enhance forest health, and improve rural economies.

  • Discuss the existing and potential biomass projects in western Idaho.
  • Find out what makes a viable project and how it becomes reality.
  • Discover innovative technologies that are right for your community.
  • Network with local champions and biomass experts.
  • Share stories about how biomass systems are making a difference across the state.
  • Learn about possible scenarios for Western Juniper biomass utilization.

For more information about the workshop, please contact:

  • Matt Wiggs at the Idaho Office of Energy Resources

(208) 332-1676; matt.wiggs@oer.idaho.gov

For more information about the Idaho Statewide Wood-to-Energy Team, please visit: http://energy.idaho.gov/renewableenergy/biomass.htm

Jon Barrett, Clearstory Studios, reported:
The Aberdeen written report will be presented to the community tomorrow as he and Mike will be driving to Aberdeen to present it.  The University of Idaho will assist Aberdeen with their implementation of the recommendations.  The biggest issue in Aberdeen was the closing of the Simplot plant and that has been temporarily postponed again until the end of August.  The date keeps changing which is stressful on the 300 people it employs.  One third of these people live in Aberdeen.

The Rigby community review was conducted June 3-5, 2014.  One of their focuses was to convert the old junior high into a community center for the arts.  That written report to the community will be presented in September.

We are just starting the Arco/Mackay community review process tomorrow with our first meeting.  The dates for it is September 23-25, 2014.

Maureen Gresham, American Planning Association, Idaho Chapter, reported:
APA is an independent, not-for-profit educational organization that provides leadership in the development of vital communities. We measure our success by the successes of our members and the communities they serve. The Planning Foundation of APA funds scholarships and community equity programs and new initiatives like special research projects.  The Foundation has allotted $3,000 to IRP for community reviews.

APA is holding a conference October 8th in Boise, Building Better Partnerships.  More information will follow.

Candy Moore, USAD – Farm Service Agency, reported:
The implementation of Agriculture Act of 2014 or Farm Bill is moving along. FSA county offices began accepting applications for disaster relief for livestock on April 14. This is for any losses dating back to Oct. 2011 Applications have been very steady, Elmore County where the largest fire destroyed both forage and animals has been mostly LIP or indemnity program applications. Other areas show a lot of applications for forage loss due to drought. This is now a permanent program and will no longer be affected by the end of a Farm Bill.

FSA Farm loan officers are very busy. Loans are funded by an appropriation from Congress not the farm bill. This appropriation increased in 2014 and will increase again in 2015. Farm Ownership loans have more than doubled this year. To date 65 have been processed (26 in FY2013) and there are still 3 months in the FY. Microloans, the newest loan program is also up. These are loans up to $35,000 and are for operating expenses.

Offices across the state are preparing to implement the new ARC/PLC (Ag Risk Coverage/Price loss coverage) program. We are beginning to format the data base that will make it possible for land owners  to allocate base acres. (acres planted with eligible crops)

Because of changes in the farm bill FSA will work more closely with RMA to make certain conservation plans are in place on farms and ranches to protect Highly Erodible Land. A new form has been developed to document this (# AD1026).

FSA and Idaho Fish and Game are preparing to announce the 100,000 acre enrolled in the SAFE  (State Acres for wildlife Enhancement)  program which is a conservation program targeted toward protecting specific species. In Idaho we are targeting Columbia Sharp Tailed Grouse. Fish and Game reports that since the program started, the state's sharp tail population has experienced a large increase, perhaps on the order of six-fold.

Idaho has one of the largest SAFE programs in the state.

Erik Kingston, Idaho Housing and Finance Association, reported:
Current Idaho Housing and Demographic stats
IHFA recently contracted with BBC Research to provide some basic data on income, demographics and housing costs. We hope to update and expand elements of this working draft analysis to be more useful to local and state policy makers and housing stakeholders. This data can help inform a larger statewide housing needs assessment and resource allocation process. Stay tuned for subsequent versions that should simplify sorting data types and possibly include one or two more data points. The draft is password protected; the final version will have a broader release.

Note: we will be adding transportation costs for each county as well. The rule of thumb for housing is that you do not spend more than 30% of household income (HHI); if you include transportation costs (since folks often must commute to locate housing they can afford), this cost should not exceed 45%. This is called the Housing Transportation Affordability Index, or Location Affordability Index.

Idaho County Level Demographic and Housing Data Sheets  (password: IRP)

See also the included document titled Housing: Foundation of Community and Economic Success for an overview of terms and considerations related to a housing needs assessment.

National stats

Also, a new report from the National Low-Income Housing Coalition describes a growing deficit in housing stock accessible to “Deeply Low Income (DMI) and Extremely Low Income (ELI) households, or those households with incomes at or below 15% (DLI) or 30% (ELI) of Area Median Income, or AMI. The data show that for every 100 of these households in Idaho, there are just 17 units within their price range. Current vacancy rates in the Treasure Valley are averaging 2%, below a ‘healthy’ rate of 6-7% and far below highs in the past decade of as much as 13-15%. These means fewer housing choices for renters, and increasing rents.

Housing Spotlight: The Affordable Rental Housing Gap Persists

What do wages look like for working Idaho families?

For comparative purposes, I used the ‘What can I afford’ option at www.housingidaho.com.

In this example, I chose a family of four with a single full-time income earner making $7.25/hr for an annual income of $15,012, which puts that household in the ELI category at 27% of AMI (expressed here as Median Family Income, or MFI).

Many ‘hourly wage’ working folks I speak with on the Housing Hotline would like to be full time, but fall short of 40 hours per week. Food servers (waiters or waitresses) in Idaho are supposed to earn an average cash wage of $3.35/hour, with the assumption that tips will bring them to the state minimum wage of $7.25/hr. Disabled or elderly callers typically present with a total household income (SSI) averaging $630/month, or $7,560, placing them in or near the DLI category.

Since 2008, I’ve seen a steady increase in the number of ‘credit compromised’ callers, and those reporting some sort of criminal history for themselves or a spouse. Both of these are serious barriers to rental housing in a reasonable price range. I also here from callers who have been renting for several years and learn that the home is in foreclosure and they are being evicted.

Housing cost burden can vary widely, and applies to rental and owner-occupied housing. For instance, here’s an excerpt from a recent Idaho Business Review piece by housing developer Michelle Griffin in Blaine County:

“…residents include first responders, teachers, resort employees and self-employed

business people. According to the Idaho Department of Labor, the average wage in Blaine County is

$38,255. This is not substantially different from the state average of $36,152. The difference in the Wood River

Valley is that the median home price is $320,000, compared to the state average of $170,200.”

Exploring on your own.

Once you choose ‘What can I afford’ option, select a city or county for your search to explore currently listed rentals in any income category. Keep in mind this is not a comprehensive listing of rental units and is not limited to “affordable” rentals, but the site currently features over 20,000 units available for rent statewide.