Organizations provide resources for renters, but they only go so far

Posted at 3:30 AM, Mar 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-23 10:46:56-04

TREASURE VALLEY, ID — Renters in the Treasure Valley are reporting rent increases of anywhere from $300-$700, or even more.

Housing projects, including those focusing on affordable housing, are constantly being announced and built, but it’s just not fast enough to meet the need.

“A good practice is usually an increase anywhere between 3-5% annually of an increase,” Jillian Patterson, the Deputy Director of the Boise City/Ada County Housing Authorities said.

The increases we're seeing in the Treasure Valley can range from 40% to 50%.

"We're seeing a lot of people who are being displaced by the increase in the amount of rents and then not feeling that they have options to move from place to place because all of the rent is so high," Monica Fabbi, a staff attorney at Intermountain Fair Housing Council said.

With rentals generally requiring an income qualification of three times the amount of the rent, many are finding themselves priced out of housing.

Patterson said with costs of everything from property taxes to food and gas going up, everyone is being impacted.

“There does need to be that recognition for landlords and owners that do need to protect their investment,” she said.

But it’s also important to acknowledge the renters this is impacting.

“People who are on fixed incomes, those who are elderly or have disabling conditions that prevent them from being able to increase their income, they have to absorb that increase,” Patterson said.

There are resources available to renters who are struggling.

Boise City/Ada County Housing Authorities

One option is the Emergency Rental Assistance Program which is distributed to the Boise City/Ada County Housing Authorities.

This is federal money meant to help offset the financial costs of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We definitely consider some of the rent increases that we’re seeing across our community as an indirect impact of the pandemic,” Patterson said.

Jesse Tree

For renters who have received an eviction notice, Jesse Tree provides assistance.

“Clients can actually call or go online and apply if they’ve received a summons and then they are filtered directly to our housing clinic,” Morgan DeCarle, the Eviction Court ProgramLead at Jesse Tree said.

From there Jesse Tree staff will work to provide financial assistance and case management to prevent eviction.

While this is the organization’s main program, they offer other types of assistance too, including emergency rental assistance and security deposit assistance.

“We created it with the specific intention of capturing a lot of clients in the community that were just kind of falling through the cracks of a lot of already existing programs,” Cassandra Artukovich, the Operations Manager for Jesse Tree said.

The demographic they have in mind with the program includes people who are living in a hotel, motel or with family or friends… people living in transitional housing like a halfway house and people who have a new rental lined up but need some financial assistance.

Intermountain Fair Housing Council

Intermountain Fair Housing Council also provides housing assistance.

“If someone thinks that they’re experiencing a housing issue that is related to one of their protected classes, those are the kinds of cases that we pursue,” Fabbi said.

These protected classes include race, color, national origin, religion, sex, family status and disability.

“Every person belongs to at least one or more of those classes, so discrimination can happen to anyone,” Fabbi said.

How far the resources go

The number of people asking for help is increasing and these resources only go so far.

In 2021, Jesse Tree was only able to provide financial assistance to 26% of applicants.

“I definitely understand that Jesse Tree has a huge impact on our community but we are just a little nonprofit,” Artukovich said.

The solution

"Evictions and this housing crisis if you will, it's not a simple matter," Fabbi said.

Patterson said there's a temporary solution in the resources that are available.

"I think right now we have a temporary solution which is the emergency rental assistance program," she said.

Other temporary advice includes talking to your landlord if you're being priced out of your current rental.

"Start with saying, "Hey, you know I'd really like to stay here, I'd really like to make it work" and some people can solve a problem that way," Fabbi said.

And using these resources that are available. As we've reported, a recent HUD grant will allow several Treasure Valley organizations to provide additional eviction prevention resources.

Artukovich also recommends checking in with family and friends to see if they know of affordable housing that might be available.

The debate Inside the Statehouse

Housing has been a hot topic at the Statehouse during the 2022 Legislative Session.

Several bills that would impact renters have been proposed.

So far only a few have been passed by one chamber of the legislature, including a bill that would establish and provide funding for a workforce housing fund, a bill to restrict local government's ability to cap rent or rental fees, and a bill that would allow tax exemptions for multi-family housing.

So far the House has voted to not pass the Consumer Protection Act, which would provide renter protections related to application fees.

Several other bills have been introduced but not heard by the full House or Senate.

We'll continue to watch this legislation as the session continues, but there's not much time left for any of this legislation to see a vote, legislative leadership has said they plan to adjourn until next year in the next week or so.