This week, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) approved a $1.8 million inaugural grant from its Eviction Protection Grant Program to support a regional proposal submitted by Idaho Legal Aid Services. The grant will support legal assistance and supportive services to low-income tenants at risk of or subject to eviction in Idaho, Montana, and Utah. The award of this extremely competitive grant (less than 10% of applications were funded) is a reflection of the housing affordability crisis in the region.

Idaho Legal Aid Services, Utah Legal Services, the Montana Legal Services Association, Jesse Tree, and Intermountain Fair Housing Council collaborated on the proposal as tenants being evicted across the region face similar housing affordability challenges due to population growth, which intensified during the pandemic. The resulting demand for housing has priced many low-income people of out their communities, leading to more evictions and more housing insecurity across the Mountain West.

This grant award will fund staff attorneys at Idaho Legal Aid Services, Intermountain Fair Housing Council, Montana Legal Services Association, and Utah Legal Services to represent tenants facing eviction. The attorneys will assist tenants with: applying for emergency rental assistance, negotiating with landlords, asserting fair housing rights, and representing tenants in court to raise defenses to evictions. Partner Jesse Tree will employ Eviction Court Advocates, who will attend weekly eviction courts in Ada and Canyon counties to help tenants navigate the court system, provide resources to tenants, and work closely with Idaho Legal Aid Services attorneys.

Idaho has a shortage of over 22,000 affordable and available homes for renters with modest incomes, and discriminatory housing practices, including evictions, further limit affordable housing options. Idahoans of color, families with children, and Idahoans living with disabilities are more likely to experience discrimination in housing than other renters despite the federal Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination in the sale and rent of housing based on a person’s race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, or familial status. For example, HUD reports that Hispanic, Black, and Asian renters are shown fewer available units compared to equally qualified white renters, and those looking to buy are often shown homes in low-opportunity neighborhoods.

Prosperity Now reports that 46% of white renter households in Idaho are cost-burdened compared to 51% of Latino households and 59% of Black households, and 42% of households without a disability are cost-burdened compared to 58% of households with a disability. High housing costs prevent families from achieving financial security and broaden the wealth gap between white households and households of color and other vulnerable Idahoans preventing them from building generational wealth. Having access to legal

assistance to prevent eviction to Idahoans facing overwhelming discrimination is an incredible opportunity to maintain stable housing, health, and economic security.”

In a release from HUD, “As families continue to feel the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and local eviction moratoria expire, we must continue to do all that we can to prevent evictions and keep people housed,” said Secretary Marcia L. Fudge. “Research shows that access to legal services and eviction diversion programs can help renters avoid eviction and the many harmful outcomes that come along with eviction actions. These programs can also benefit court systems and landlords by reducing eviction caseloads for local court systems and helping landlords access emergency rental assistance so they can maintain housing quality during these uncertain times. That is why our Department is proud to release an inaugural Eviction Protection Grant Program to ensure eviction protection services reach the people who need it most.”

The work that provided the basis for this publication was supported by funding under an award with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The substance and findings of the work are dedicated to the public. The author and publisher are solely responsible for the accuracy of the statements and interpretations contained in this publication. Such interpretations do not necessarily reflect the views of the Government