Make a Difference

Ways to Fight Hunger in Idaho at the System Level

Idaho State Capitol - Capitol of Light by Kevin Rank

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WE NEED YOUR VOICE! HB 442 is a bill that would prohibit local governments from enacting caps on rental fees and fees, which will make it more difficult for Idaho families to find an affordable home.
Take Action Here: https://www.idahoassetnetwork.org/takeaction/ 

Guest opinion: Legislators seeking to ‘compound’ housing issues

By ALI RABE.     Jan 30, 2022

Rather than mitigate Idaho’s growing housing crisis, state lawmakers are pushing through legislation that seeks to compound it further and strip away local control.

If passed, House Bill 442 would prevent cities from regulating fees or deposits for residential rental properties, giving landlords total power and increasing the likelihood of abusive practices. As it’s written, the bill would trump the city of Boise’s application fee ordinance, allowing landlords across the state to collect application fees from an unlimited number of applicants, charging whatever they want, without ever having to prove a unit is even available.

This type of unethical behavior is what prompted Boise officials to act, and application fees were capped at $30. Limiting rental fees is simple consumer protection.

In Ada County, 30% of residents are renters. A similar percentage also live paycheck to paycheck, as housing costs rise and incomes remain stagnant.

A large majority of landlords — about 95% — are good ones. Some reach out to nonprofits directly when they know a tenant can’t pay. Many are willing to work with community organizations and waive late and other fees to keep their tenants housed.

There are also other landlords who are more difficult to work with. Many of these are large, investor-owned companies with no presence in Idaho. With a less than 1% vacancy rate in the Treasure Valley, they have all of the bargaining power in a market that is completely unregulated. A number of states require property management companies to register and comply with basic best practices, but Idaho removed that requirement in 2017.

Right now, if tenants secure a rental, they have to take it. If their landlord violates the lease, they must try to work it out or attempt to move to a new place, which they’re unlikely to find.

I’ve heard countless stories on the ridiculous application of fees when working with our Jesse Tree clients, like:

• A tenant in eviction court who owed over $3,000 in late fees. They couldn’t pay their rent and were charged $100 every day they were late. The rent payments they made were only applied to fees.

• A tenant in eviction court who received a 30-day notice to vacate. They paid $600 in application fees. Unfortunately, they did not receive a response back from any places and were unable to move out at the end of the 30 days. Their landlord took them to court.

• A tenant who was charged $300 for a praying mantis their kid was keeping in a plastic terrarium in preparation for a science fair. The landlord claimed this was a “pet fee.” We argued the praying mantis was not a pet, but the landlord refused to waive the fee.

Providing tenants with basic protections is a way to create a more even playing field. This is why I introduced a bill last session that required rental fees to be reasonable and enumerated in any lease agreement, so both parties know what they are getting into. Despite receiving bipartisan support and input from stakeholders, it narrowly died in the House.

Excessive fees don’t solve any of our problems. Nickel-and-diming folks who are already struggling ultimately hurts all of us. Less affordable housing leads to more landlord and tenant disputes about rent getting paid on time, as well as increases in eviction, homelessness, and of course, fees.

Idaho’s housing crisis isn’t just isolated to one area—it’s a statewide problem. We must continue to work together with landlords and property managers to find sensible solutions that keep our neighbors housed. Passing short-sided policies like HB442 only does harm.

Ali Rabe is executive director of Jesse Tree, a Boise-based nonprofit dedicated to preventing homelessness and eviction in the Treasure Valley.

Urge Governor Little to invest in Idaho’s Housing Trust Fund Now! 

Congress and our State Legislature are both back in session, so it’s time for us to collectively work for just and equitable systems in which all people can have food security with dignity.  There are two urgent housing-related actions:

State and local governments rely on federal resources to meet housing, homelessness, and community development needs. However, some members of Congress are threatening to enact a year-long continuing resolution instead of a spending bill for Fiscal Year 2022.  This would maintain already inadequate funding levels from the previous fiscal year. Because the cost of housing and development is tied to market rates, which tend to rise each year (especially in Idaho), a continuing resolution acts as a cut, reducing the number of people served.  You can use this simple TEMPLATE to contact your Congressmen. A second, Idaho-specific issue is equally urgent. Governor Little is proposing that the state use $50 million in State Fiscal Recovery Funds to fund the development of affordable homes in Idaho. Despite previous plans for this funding to go into the state’s currently unused Housing Trust Fund, the governor publicly said this week that the funding will instead go into a new and untested fund for workforce housing. Housing Trust Funds have a proven track record of successfully promoting the development of affordable homes throughout the country for the last three decades, and Idaho’s Housing Trust Fund is the best option for this historic investment in housing in our state. Here is an action tool you may use:  https://www.idahoassetnetwork.org/takeaction/ 

Working Families Tax Credit

The Working Families Tax Credit is a tax credit dedicated to supporting families that have been most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. 30 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Colombia have enacted a working families tax credit, but Idaho is not one of them.

The Working Families Tax Credit is a tax credit dedicated to supporting families that have been most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. 30 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Colombia have enacted a working families tax credit, but Idaho is not one of them.

If we want to ensure that all Idahoans are able to support their families and have financial security, we need to update our tax structure to support our communities by enacting a Working Families Tax Credit. We are passionate about a Working Families Tax Credit because it has a proven track record of elevating families and ensuring they have the means to pay for essentials like car repairs, groceries, and diapers.

Once put into law, an Idaho working families tax credit will:

  • Impact 333,200 Idahoans and make them eligible for $200-$300 credit
  • Let industries such as retail, construction, janitorial, farm labor, service workers, others keep more of what they earn and make work pay more
  • Stimulate local businesses
  • Help families cover the costs of essentials like groceries and childcare

This campaign is supported by the Elevate Idaho Families coalition, a diverse coalition of non-profits, business leaders, community advocates, and lawmakers. However, we still need you to join us for this campaign. Please sign the petition and help us tell lawmakers that this tax credit for working people is good for Idaho.

Ask Congress for Increased Housing Investments in Fiscal Year 2022

State and local governments and the communities they serve rely on federal resources to meet the housing, homelessness, and community development needs of their communities. However, Congress has underfunded these resources for decades, and some members of Congress are threatening to enact a year-long continuing resolution instead of a spending bill for Fiscal Year 2022.Continuing resolutions maintain funding levels from the previous fiscal year. Because the cost of housing and development is tied to market rates, which tend to rise each year, a continuing resolution acts as a cut, reducing the number of people served by these vital programs.

Please use the email template below to contact your members of Congress and urge them to avoid a long-term continuing resolution and instead provide the highest funding possible for affordable housing, homelessness, and community development programs in Fiscal Year 2022, including an expansion of rental assistance.

Instructions:
To email your members of Congress: Fill out this form to identify your members of Congress and personalize the email template below.
Click here to find local data for your state to include in the email.
To call your members of Congress: Dial 202-224-3121, and the operator will connect you with your senators and representative. You can use the email template below as a call script.

Questions or feedback? Contact your NLIHC housing advocacy organizer if you have questions or to let us know what you hear back!

More ways to make a difference:

  • Attend Roundtable forums. Request an IIRAH speaker for your organization. Talk to people you know and share what you have learned. Be a “myth buster.”
  • Call, write, email, and challenge your elected officials at all levels of government. Learn more about anti-hunger legislation and programs to end hunger.
  • Vote for candidates who support hunger relief programs with policies that promote food security and maintain dignity for all.
  • Ask your state representatives and senator to raise Idaho’s minimum wage.
  • Encourage your religious community or favorite social service organization to join forces with IIRAH and become an endorser.
  • Attend one of IIRAH’s forums. Meet other people who are working to end hunger in Idaho, learn about current issues, and steps you can take to be an advocate for those who are struggling.
  • Sign up for the Food Resource and Action Center’s newsletter to receive action alerts on important national food policies.
  • Support your local food system by planting a garden, volunteering for a community garden, buying produce from the farmer’s market, and asking your grocery store to stock locally grown foods.

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