Boise apartment project threatened after renters speak out

Ridenbaugh Place Apartments
Posted at 4:05 PM, Oct 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-11 19:20:07-04

BOISE, Idaho — Time is running out for tenants of the Ridenbaugh Place Apartments near Boise State University to find new housing and they're speaking out. Earlier this year, Boise City Council approved a project to tear down the current complex and replace it with multi-story, upscale student housing.

City Council had previously rejected the project, but the St. Louis-based developer, Subtext, made adjustments including a relocation package to help current residents find new housing.

Some residents of the Ridenbaugh Place Apartments say they're having trouble finding a new place to live. They're expected to be out of their current unit by next Wednesday, October 20.

"We're grieving the loss of our support system, our social network," Pam Roemer, a resident at Ridenbaugh Place Apartments said.

She said she and her mom have lived in the complex for more than ten years; another resident says he's lived there for 25 years.

They said they're sad to leave this apartment community, but also struggling to find somewhere else to go that's affordable and the assistance from the developer, Subtext, isn't what they thought it would be.

"I've been looking, I've been checking them out. It's going to take a longer time, there's not much out there," Roemer said.

It's not just the availability of apartments that's causing a problem.

"To apply for a place, maybe there's an application fee, maybe there's not but the processing fees, they're over hundreds of dollars, 160-200 dollars and it's like they want it per applicant and that's just not doable for some of the people because where's that money coming from," Roemer said.

Another resident, Ted Rithman said he's facing similar difficulty.

"I keep thinking I get closer and closer, but at the same time what I keep running into is pretty much what a lot of people run into where I find you have to make three times the rent," Rithman said.

Subtext says only five residents out of more than 20 remain at Ridenbaugh, four are working with subtext.

But the residents and the Intermountain Fair Housing Council (IFHC) which has been helping the residents during this process, said they had difficulty accessing the relocation assistance until IFHC sent a letter to the city.

"With that letter, then suddenly things started to change a little bit and the developer did start ramping up their assistance to the residents," Lori Dicarie, an investigator for IFHC said.

Subtext said they did provide assistance prior to September and sent Idaho News Six documents showing the notice tenants got alerting them to the deadline to vacate their units, and move-out certifications dated in August and early September. They blacked out the names on these documents because the tenants, "have not agreed to give up their reasonable expectation for privacy. We will respect that, as we do not want to subject any tenant to bullying."

But tenants and IFHC said the notice did not include the terms of the Tenant Assistance Package Covenant, making some tenants reluctant to sign the document as requested.

They also said subtext stonewalled tenants who tried to find out how to obtain the benefits from the package prior to the letter sent to the city.

"Or they're just providing like a cash for keys transaction where they would reimburse them after they moved out but they weren't providing all that assistance upfront," Dicarie said.

She also said this situation is an example of the larger state of affordable housing in Boise.

"There's a very tiny pool of housing affordable and accessible to people because you know here in Boise we have been eliminating that housing at a really rapid rate and not really replacing it at any appreciable numbers," Dicarie said.

Boise Mayor, Lauren McLean issued a statement last week which said, "The tenants of the Ridenbaugh Place Apartments are important members of our community who deserve the opportunity to find new homes in our city. I was encouraged when the developer of the project, located off Boise Avenue, volunteered to provide tenants with a relocation package to support their moves to other residences. The developer should do right by the current residents who need the support they were promised to move into new homes."

The City of Boise will not issue any permits or allow the developer to move forward with the project without the Tenant Assistance Package in place. We’re committed to making sure residents get what they were promised as part of the approval of this project. We value affordability and remain committed to keeping Boiseans housed during this critical time."

The City of Boise is also hosting community discussions on housing. They said they want to hear the impacts of housing on Boiseans and brainstorm solutions to the city's housing crisis.

  • Oct. 12 at 6 p.m. – Neighborhood Listening Session at Kristin Armstrong Park   
  • Oct. 20 at 1 p.m. – Neighborhood Listening Session [Virtual]​ 
  • Oct. 27 at 10 a.m. – Neighborhood Listening Session at Library! at Hillcrest

The City is also asking residents to fill out a survey on how to use American Rescue Funds the City gets. Click here to take the survey.