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Boise officials vote to make housing more expensive, despite pledging to work on affordability

Boise officials vote to make housing more expensive, despite pledging to work on affordability

Matt Tobeck
December 21, 2020
December 21, 2020

If you live in Boise and don’t want to pay the costs associated with owning an electric car, too bad. You’re going to pay those costs anyway, that is, if you buy a newly-constructed home. In keeping with the aspirations of Boise Mayor Lauren McLean’s newly created Climate Action Division, Boise will now mandate that all newly constructed single family homes and townhouses with garages have a higher voltage circuit compatible with electric vehicle charging.

California was the first state in 2015 to mandate that building codes require electric wiring to be included for electric vehicles in houses. Since then, other localities have increasingly followed suit. According to Alliance to Save Energy, a nonprofit coalition that advocates for federal energy efficiency policy, “States and local governments are increasingly relying on building codes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and pave the way for the coming transition to EVs.”

In a press release on the issue, McLean said, “As we create a clean city for everyone, the shift in providing an option to include an electric circuit capable of charging an electric car has the potential to make a significant impact by removing a barrier to owning a green vehicle in Boise.” 

The problem with that statement, of course, is that Boise residents already possessed the “option” of installing such circuits, if they so desired. What the city of Boise just did was to take that option away from them. It’s also making them pay more on housing costs in the process. 

Not only does this new requirement come as the market share for electric vehicles statewide in Idaho sits at roughly 1% of all vehicles purchased, but of those, the new building code appears to disproportionately advantage well-to-do electric vehicle (EV) buyers at the expense of lower income residents. 

A 2017 survey found that roughly 70% of electric vehicles owners made more than $75,000 per year. Perhaps more revealing, a recent study by TrueCar.com found the average Ford Focus Electric owner had an average income of $199,000. Fiat 500e owners had an average income of $145,000. 

City Communication Director Seth Ogilvie told the Idaho Press that the cost of a branch circuit at the time of construction likely ranges from $300 to $500. However, Bill Rauer, executive officer of the Building Contractors Association of Southwestern Idaho, estimated that between $500 and $1,000 would be added to the total cost of all new homes under this new mandate.

“It adds cost to new construction of every home, which translates to a bump in the home price. While we understand the desire for energy efficiency, mandating such a thing is not taking any of the pressure off the upward trend of home prices,” Rauer said. 

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