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Millions in rental assistance still available to low-income Idahoans

Thousands of Idahoans received rental assistance this year in the aftermath of COVID-19 and there are still millions available.

As of last week, 1,050 households in Ada County got a leg up from rental assistance through the Boise City/Ada County Housing Authority. The payments totaled $4.9 million and were paid out to landlords for both rental assistance to avoid eviction filings and to utility companies for unpaid bills.

[Study: Boise rents went up faster than anywhere in the US in the past year]

Another 1,406 households outside of Ada County received assistance from the Idaho Housing and Finance Association, totaling $4.8 million. IHFA also paid out another $1 million to Ada County residents prior to BCACHA’s program coming online in February. This preceded the Idaho Legislature’s appropriation of the rental assistance funds, but IHFA reached an agreement with BCACHA to process its remaining applications in January.

‘Tremendous effect’

This assistance was part of a raft of federal funds to assist low-income renters and prevent evictions around the country. BCACHA Housing Programs Director Jillian Patterson said the program had a big impact on preventing eviction in Ada County.

“I think this has had a tremendous effect,” she said. “Out of the gate we had a lot of people who had received three day notices from their landlords who were on the brink of eviction. It seems now that we got through the bulk of some of those applications we had at that time. We’re still getting those, but a lot of the applications we’re seeing now are trying to avoid falling behind on rent.”

Earlier this year, BCACHA received roughly $24 million of federal funds combined from the City of Boise and Ada County for rental assistance. BCACHA will be able to pay out the rest of the roughly $19 million in assistance through September 2022. Idaho Housing and Finance Association has roughly $170 million left to assistance renters outside of Ada County.

Who can apply?

To be eligible, applicants must be residents of Idaho, be on a rental lease and have been impacted by COVID-19. Applicants must also make less than 80% of the area median income, which translates to $41,900 for a single person or $59,890 for a family of four in Ada County. The income limits are different for each county throughout the state.

Relief payments will go directly to landlords or the utility companies. Patterson said the program will focus on serving applicants who are behind on rent and utilities first. Applicants are only eligible for up to three months of future rental assistance, but if they are still in need of assistance by the end of 90 days and there are still funds left, they can apply again and possibly receive more help.

Patterson said landlords can refuse to accept the assistance, but the program has only seen a handful of instances where this happened. Late fees and internet costs can also be covered by these funds, she said.

“We issue checks at least weekly and in certain situations if there’s an emergency and someone is at the courthouse for an eviction we can issue a check right away if we needed to,” Patterson said.

To apply in Ada County, click here. For the rest of Idaho, click here.

Correction: This story has been corrected to reflect the fact that the Idaho Housing and Finance Association paid out $4.8 million in rental and utility assistance outside of Ada County this year. A different number was printed in the original version because it included the roughly $1 million paid out prior to BCACHA starting its program for Ada County residents only.

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Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. Reporter
Margaret Carmel is a BoiseDev reporter focused on the City of Boise, housing, homelessness and growth. Contact her at [email protected] or by phone at (757)705-8066.

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