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Housing Crisis Hits Idahoans on Fixed Income Harder

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More than half of renters with extremely low income in Idaho are older or have a disability. (Kirk Fisher/Adobe Stock)
More than half of renters with extremely low income in Idaho are older or have a disability. (Kirk Fisher/Adobe Stock)
 By Eric Tegethoff - Producer, Contact
May 13, 2021

BOISE, Idaho -- The shortage of affordable housing in Idaho is hitting people on fixed incomes especially hard.

The state is short more than 22,000 homes for people with modest incomes, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

Hannah Sharp, development manager for the eviction prevention nonprofit Jesse Tree, said her organization has worked with people who have seen their rent go up as much as $600 with only 30 days notice, noting it's nearly impossible for someone on fixed income to afford such an increase.

"They are already kind of maxed out on what they can afford to pay," Sharp explained. "They can't add new income streams because they're on a fixed income, and a lot of times they also don't have the option to reduce expenses to accommodate that large rental increase."

Rents are increasing at a furious pace, especially in Boise. The website Apartment List found rent went up nearly 13% between 2020 and 2021, the biggest percentage increase in the country.

Sharp pointed out the other issue, especially for many people on fixed incomes, is to ensure housing is accessible for folks with mobility issues. Jesse Tree recently worked with a veteran and his wife who reached out to the media and talked about getting priced out of their apartment.

Sharp said the couple got a lot of suggestions for places to rent, but they weren't accessible.

"It took our case manager like three weeks to find something that fit their accessibility needs but also their budget that they could be in that housing situation long term and have it be sustainable," Sharp recounted. "It was really a hard thing to do."

Sharp noted the biggest solution is building more affordable housing, and added Idaho should use pandemic relief funds strategically to do this, and also use it for more inventive ways such as converting hotels into housing units.

"Just really making sure that we make a long-term investment now when we have funding and the capability to do it is going to ultimately serve our region best for a long time to come," Sharp contended.

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