For the third straight year, multifamily construction in Meridian continued to gain a strong foothold in 2015. Just drive through the city on the interstate and you’ll see 190 units going up at High Point on Overland by Roaring Springs and, to the north, 128 units going up at The Franklin at Ten Mile.

“We’re definitely seeing a huge interest,” The Franklin at Ten Mile community manager Erica Andrews said.

Meridian’s multifamily market isn’t so much making a post-recession comeback as it is growing into its own for the first time, said the city’s community development director, Bruce Chatterton.

Indeed, that’s what the numbers show. Even before the recession, apartments and other multifamily housing made up only a fraction of residential construction in Meridian. From 2001 to 2008, only 8 percent of residential building permits were for multifamily housing. But over the last three years, multifamily’s share has averaged 34 percent.

Chatterton sees a couple of reasons for this shift. For one, folks who lost their home to foreclosure during the recession still needed a place to live, so they started renting, he said. Another factor is that Millennials — those who are now in their 20s and 30 — are more likely than older adults to rent their homes, according to Freddie Mac’s 2015 Multifamily Outlook report.

Homeownership rates — the rate of housing units that are owned rather than rented — declined across the United States and in Idaho from 2000 to 2012. Meridian’s homeownership rate dropped more sharply than the state and national averages, falling from 86 percent in 2000 to about 76 percent in 2012, according to the Meridian Planning Division’s Existing Conditions report.

“In my mind, it’s simply a reflection that we’re maturing as a city,” Chatterton said of the rise in multifamily housing. “Really all of this growth has been predicted by the land use plan.”

That land use plan — the city’s comprehensive plan that guides future growth — encourages the development of diverse housing options to meet the needs of various incomes, family sizes and housing preferences.

“A vibrant community,” the plan reads, “needs a good cross-section of housing and therefore must guard against an abundance of subdivisions in like density and price range.”

Meridian’s multifamily options are still limited. Of the almost 30,000 housing units in Meridian in 2013, only 13 percent were multifamily, according to the Existing Conditions report.

HOMEOWNERS’ CONCERNS

Multifamily developments, when proposed near existing homes, are often met with resistance from homeowners, who fear the dense housing will have negative impacts on traffic, property values and their neighborhood’s safety and quality of life.

The concern about home values falling because of a nearby apartment is not backed up by data, according to Ada County Assessor Bob McQuade.

“We really don’t have anything to indicate, any evidence that indicates there is a diminishment of value because of an apartment complex going in,” he said.

As far as addressing school capacity and traffic concerns, multifamily proposals are treated the same as single-family proposals. The West Ada School District sends the city a letter with an estimate of how many new students the new development will bring to nearby schools and if there is room for them. The Ada County Highway District does a traffic study to look at safety concerns and gauge how the development will impact traffic. A condition for project approval may include installing a traffic light or safety median, ACHD spokesman Craig Quintana said.

“The traffic impact review is primarily to look at safety concerns,” he said. “We also look at the impact on street capacity, but that is not a legally justified reason to deny a development unless safety has been compromised.”

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