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Helping Idahoans and a County in Crisis

Business Student Sheds Light on Rising Housing Costs in Kootenai County

There’s an affordable housing crisis in Kootenai County. To assess the scale of the problem, the Coeur d’Alene Economic Development Corporation sponsored a team of students and economists from the College of Business and Economics at the University of Idaho to study the area’s housing market.

Savanna Pagel, a junior studying human resources, joined the team because the crisis hit close to home.

“I grew up in Idaho,” Pagel said. “Families are being displaced in my backyard, and I wanted to help.”

Pagel and the team started collecting information through focus groups. The groups included stakeholders from around the region including business, construction, nonprofit, recreation and environmental organizations.

“I didn’t realize how many factors influence housing until interviewing such a diverse group of constituents. Hearing so many different perspectives was really eye-opening,” Pagel said.

Pagel also helped develop online surveys to understand what was happening in Kootenai County’s households. Questionnaires were sent to active realtors and the managers and employees of the county’s largest employers.

After more than 2,700 online questionnaires were completed and returned to the team, Pagel used data visualization, the graphic representation of information, to analyze the responses through pictures, pivot tables and other visuals.

Savanna Pagel walks through the Albertson Building atrium. She carries her laptop, ready to meet up with the research team.
Pagel is from Potlatch, and will graduate with a bachelor’s of science in human resources and management.

“Information from focus groups and the questionnaire tell the same story,” Pagel said. “Housing costs in Kootenai County are rising, more than doubling in the last four years. Rent prices are increasing, making payments unaffordable for 44% of households.”

I didn’t realize how many factors influence housing until interviewing such a diverse group of constituents. Hearing so many different perspectives was really eye-opening. Savanna Pagel, CBE junior

The team’s final analysis, the Housing Availability and Affordability Study for Kootenai County, also revealed multiple trends. Regional employers cannot find housing for their employees and local residents are being squeezed out of the area’s housing market.

“This project really challenged me to step out of my comfort zone. Economics isn’t my major, and affordable housing research isn’t something I thought I’d do in college,” Pagel said. “However, by not limiting or putting myself in a bubble, I learned to professionally communicate with stakeholders, interview small groups and practice data analytics in the real world.”

Savanna Pagel working on research at her laptop.
Pagel applies lessons from data analytics classes to research that impacts her community.

Article by Ross Wulf, College of Business and Economics.

Photos by Joe Pallen, Creative Services.

Published March 2022.

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