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Report: Idaho Incomes Fall Far Behind Rising Rents

With rising rents and a growing population, Idaho is facing a shortage of affordable housing. (woodleywonderworks/Flickr)
With rising rents and a growing population, Idaho is facing a shortage of affordable housing. (woodleywonderworks/Flickr)
November 21, 2018

BOISE, Idaho – Idaho renters are feeling the squeeze as rents have increased at three times the rate of wages in the state over the past few decades.

According to a new report by the Idaho Asset Building Network, Idaho incomes have gone up 11 percent since 1990.

Meanwhile, median rent has increased more than 30 percent.

Alejandra Cerna Rios, the network’s policy director, says the fact that Idaho’s population is growing at the fastest rate in the nation is compounding the issue of limited affordable housing.

"Already, affordable homes were very scarce, and many families in Idaho find they are paying upwards of a third of their income – and sometimes even more than half of their income – just to keep a roof over their heads," she explains.

The report finds the number of Idaho renters paying more than a third of their income increased from 39 percent in 2007 to 46 percent in 2016.

Karen Vauk, president and CEO of Idaho Foodbank, says her statewide network has seen a growing number of people who need food assistance because of the increased cost of housing. She says this crunch puts a lot of pressure on families.

"The housing costs have to be covered,” she states. “You need to keep a roof over your families' head.

“And so they're dealing with those rising costs, which means other parts of their budget are squeezed and oftentimes the food budget is the first that is squeezed in those situations and they then don't have enough food."

Vauk says she's also heard from older Idahoans who can't afford their prescriptions because of rising housing costs.

She says the Idaho Foodbank is looking for more donations to accommodate the growing need.

Cerna Rios says more housing will need to be built in the long-term and, for aid now, the state and federal governments could provide targeted rental assistance.

She says supporting struggling families helps all Idahoans.

"If we can set a course guided by making every ZIP code a positive place to grow up and to work, then we can develop solutions, I think, that we can all live with," she states.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ID