Chaos in California is Driving Residents to Seek Solace in This Red State

By: Georgia | Published: May 08, 2024

As the chaos in states like California and Oregon surged, residents sought a safer, quieter life. Among them, Nick Kostenborder and his wife, who moved to Idaho with their baby amid 2020’s turmoil. 

“You’re worried about someone else besides yourself. So you start to notice threats more,” Kostenborder observed, referencing the increased homelessness which once seemed harmless but had become a threat.

Idaho's Growing Population

Idaho has witnessed a significant population increase, growing by more than 12% from 2018 to 2023.

View of downtown Boise, Idaho, featuring modern buildings against a backdrop of mountains and a clear blue sky

Source: Attorney Sluice/Unsplash

This growth is largely due to an influx of residents from West Coast states like California, Oregon, and Washington, who are fleeing political unrest, homelessness, and increasing crime rates in their home states.


The Idaho Community Grows

In Sandpoint, Idaho, the Kostenborders found themselves among a quirky group of West Coast exiles. “It’s this kind of weird little expat group that we all found ourselves here,” Kostenborder said

Aerial view of a small town with residential and academic buildings, surrounded by lush greenery and a water tower with the letter 'I' on it

Source: Wikimedia Commons

This mini-community includes families from Seattle to San Diego, all seeking a slice of Idaho’s peaceful pie.

From Chaos to Cul-de-Sacs

Ashley Manning, now a mother in a safe Idaho cul-de-sac, contrasted her new home with her old neighborhood in Portland. 

Neon sign reading "Portland Oregon Old Town" with a leaping stag, displayed against a twilight sky

Source: Zack Spear/Unsplash

“He just can take off on his bike and it’s so safe,” she said about her son. A stark difference from the dangers they left behind, proving the move was worth it.

The Surge in Growth

Idaho isn’t just growing; it’s booming. Sandpoint alone grew 13% from 2020 to 2022. 

Night view of Boise, Idaho's downtown area illuminated by street lights and building lights, showcasing the city's active nightlife

Source: Alden Skeie/Unsplash

This influx of newcomers from busier, more liberal states is transforming the once quiet small towns of Idaho into bustling communities.

The Price of Popularity

With growth comes change, and not all are welcoming it. 

Scenic view of a vast field with a single white barn and surrounding mountains under a clear sky in rural Idaho.

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Idaho natives like Bonner County Commissioner Luke Omodt express concerns: “Growing up in a wide-open space like this, people get used to having elbow room.” Now, the influx of new residents is slowly reshaping the landscape.


The Draw of Idaho's Policies

For newcomers like Bryan Zielinski, Idaho’s conservative policies were a significant draw. 

Winter view of the Idaho State Capitol building covered in snow, with cloudy skies above and snow-dusted trees surrounding the structure

Source: Will Smith/Unsplash

Fleeing strict gun laws and COVID-19 mandates in Seattle, Zielinski found Idaho’s more relaxed atmosphere a perfect fit to open his own gun shop. “Everything is political,” he lamented about his former home.


Political Reasons

The political climate and lifestyle changes have driven many like the Zielinskis to seek refuge in states aligning more closely with their values. 

Interior of an office with red walls featuring a circular sign for the "Idaho GOP 2024 Presidential Caucus" and a poster of Ronald Reagan pointing, captioned "I want you to fight socialism."

Source: IdahoGOP/X

This migration trend is reshaping Idaho’s demographic and political landscape, making it a red state haven.


The Safety of Idaho's Streets

The Daily Mail reports that in Idaho, the streets are safe enough for children to play outside, a stark contrast to the urban environments many families fled. 

Aerial shot of a dense residential area in Idaho, showing numerous homes and streets with a backdrop of distant mountains and a large open field adjacent to the neighborhood

Source: Michael Tuszynski/Unsplash

This sense of community safety is one of the major factors driving the migration from the West Coast.


West Coast Homeless Crisis

Portland’s struggle with homelessness has reached new heights, with “hundreds of unsanctioned camps spread out across virtually every neighborhood,” according to the city government.

A cluttered and crowded homeless encampment located under an overpass, filled with tents, tarps, and assorted belongings scattered throughout the area

Source: Wikimedia Commons

California is also experiencing a homeless crisis, with the highest rate in the U.S.


The Cultural Shift in Idaho

As more people from diverse backgrounds move to Idaho, they bring a piece of their culture with them, creating a unique blend. 

Aerial view of a serene riverside community in Idaho, featuring houses along a narrow road with docks extending into the river, surrounded by forested hills

Source: Backroad Packers/Unsplash

This melting pot of ideologies and lifestyles is turning Idaho into a cultural frontier.


The Future of Idaho's Growth

As Idaho continues to grow, the challenges of development and integration of new residents with the old guard will dictate the state’s future.

Early morning view of a hot air balloon flying over the Boise city skyline, with the sun illuminating the buildings and hills in the distance

Source: Bryce Boehler/Unsplash

Will the appeal of open spaces and conservative policies continue to attract droves, or will the growing pains prove too much? Only time will tell.