Vital rental assistance helps Idahoans stay housed

Nearly 30% of Idaho families rent their homes, many paying beyond their means for housing that often doesn’t meet their needs, writes guest columnist Mel Leviton.

December 22, 2022 4:20 am
For rent sign in Boise

A for rent sign sits outside of a home in the West End of Boise. (Christina Lords/Idaho Capital Sun)

Our neighbors, children, people who fix our cars, stock our groceries, care for our elderly parents and small children, teachers, farm and dairy workers, hotel and restaurant workers, church friends, seniors, people in poor health and with disabilities – all deserve access to a safe and affordable home that meets their needs.

Yet many of us continue to struggle to find housing we can afford and stay in our homes due to the growing gap between rental prices and income across Idaho. Families are increasingly forced to choose between rent and other necessities. 

As funds run dry, Idaho Housing and Finance will soon pause emergency rental assistance program

Nearly 30% of Idaho families rent their homes, many paying beyond their means for housing that often doesn’t meet their needs. Households must earn $39,258 annually to afford a modest two-bedroom home.

This does not consider economic differences across the state, including the high cost or lack of child care options. Idahoans with disabilities and seniors who rely on monthly Supplemental Security Income payments of $841 for an individual and $1,261 for a couple, and those who rely on Old Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance averaging around $1,600 for an individual, are priced out across Idaho housing markets.  

People who have limited income due to low wages, disability or retirement are at risk of eviction when they choose to eat, fix their car, or buy needed prescriptions.

We met many Idahoans living in their cars, camping on public lands, couch surfing with friends, family, or bouncing from shelter to shelter during our 2022 community listening sessions. A young man with a disability in northern Idaho spent his days at the library to escape the summer heat. Many people shared their fear of losing their homes because of rapidly rising rents and utility bills. We’ve spoken to countless seniors and people with mobility disabilities who can’t find housing they can get into. 

In response to the recent health emergency, Congress helped prevent evictions by providing emergency rental assistance funding to help individuals and families stay housed during the pandemic. In turn, state governments approved the use and distribution of these funds to help families.

The funds approved by the Idaho Legislature and Gov. Brad Little helped 14,789 households avoid eviction and homelessness since 2021. This funding will soon run dry, yet families continue to face the threat of increasing rents, loss of child care and emergency health or transportation expenses. We’ve seen that short-term rental assistance can keep people stay housed. It can help people who need a wheelchair/walker/low impact accessible space that includes a level entrance, wide doorways and usable bathrooms stay in accessible hotel rooms until suitable housing can be located. 

If Idaho’s congressional delegation were to support the Eviction Crisis Act, this bipartisan piece of legislation will create a permanent emergency rental assistance program to provide financial assistance and housing stability services for Idahoans facing unexpected emergency costs or high rents. This program will help ensure that all Idaho families continue to have access to a safe, accessible and affordable home. 


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Mel Leviton
Mel Leviton

Mel Leviton is the executive director of the Idaho State Independent Living Council. She has been with the SILC since 2015 and has more than 30 years’ experience working with and for people with disabilities in the private, nonprofit and public sectors. In addition to her professional work, Mel shares the lived experience of being a person with visible and invisible disabilities. She has a strong belief in the ability of a person to know what they like, want and need no matter their disability. Access means we get what we need in a way that works best for us, not the person next to us.