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Parade of Homes

(From left) Lance LeBaron, Bob Roberts and Jennifer Roberts mingle at a home that was part of the 2015 Parade of Homes tour in Quail Ridge Estates near Twin Falls. 

Housing is tight across the Magic Valley. That’s likely no surprise to anyone who has tried to buy a house here in the past few years.

In this week’s Big Story, the final installment in our 10-part series on growth in the Magic Valley, reporters Laurie Welch and Heather Kennison highlighted just how tight the housing market is.

As of early September, there were only 201 active listings in Twin Falls County, and 39 in Jerome County. That’s 19 percent fewer and 17 percent fewer, respectively, from the prior September. This despite Twin Falls County adding approximately 1,000 new residents every year, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates.

The average number of days that homes stay on the market is also decreasing across the board in south-central Idaho, leaving many new residents to either settle for something that doesn’t quite fit their needs or risk having the home snatched up by another buyer.

It’s not that homebuilding has stagnated; city officials across the Magic Valley say they’re flooded with permits. But the region’s rapid growth, especially in Twin Falls and Mini-Cassia, has left builders playing catch-up.

As Welch reported in her portion of the Big Story, construction jobs have never recovered from the Great Recession. Since 2006, the total number of non-farm jobs statewide has increased by about 100,000. Over the same period, the number of construction jobs decreased by more than 5,000. Some of that is likely a result of automation and efficiency gains, but fewer construction jobs is discouraging for a state where the population increased about 30 percent in the past 12 years.

But some solutions might be on the horizon. In Mini-Cassia, Rupert — a city where the population was either stagnant or decreased for decades — has seen a significant uptick in homebuilding. The same is true for single-family dwellings in Jerome, despite the year-over-year decrease in September. So demand is there from both buyers and builders. It’s just a matter of whether those increases will be sufficient to offset population growth.

In Twin Falls, for the first time in years, the city is seeing several multifamily dwellings cropping up. For the fiscal year through August, Twin Falls issued 25 fourplex permits, which building official Jarrod Bordi said is likely a record for the city.

Multifamily dwellings aren’t for every prospective homebuyer. But as the Magic Valley seeks to attract young, eager workers to fill its abundant jobs, they may suffice for new families’ starter dwellings.

There is no easy fix for housing shortages, and a raw decrease in construction workers across the state is tough to overcome. Still, there are signs that relief may be on the way for homebuyers in the Magic Valley.

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