Boise State study hopes to paint a clearer picture of Idaho’s eviction rate

When people think of evictions they think of someone not paying their rent or possibly violating the terms of a lease. However, a person can be kicked out of his or her home for many reasons.

Take, for instance, residents of the North Fork Trailer Park north of Ketchum. More than two dozen families came home to eviction notices on their doors, not because they weren’t paying, but because the park’s owners had given up their fight with the trailer park’s aging sewage system and decided to sell.

“It’s not necessarily always the fault of the tenant,” said Vanessa Fry, research director at Boise State’s Idaho Policy Institute.

Evictions ‘not just a symptom of poverty, it’s a cause of poverty’

Fry focuses much of her research on housing and homelessness issues. Over the years, she’s studied the effects and cost savings of Housing First as well as looked into Ada County’s Homelessness Service Provider Network. Fry is turning her attention toward eviction and the cyclical effect it can have on someone’s housing.

“It’s not just a symptom of poverty, it’s a cause of poverty. Once you have an eviction on your record, what the research shows is you’re more likely to slip into poverty than if you don’t because it’s really hard for you to access other housing opportunities,” Fry said.

Vanessa Fry, research director at Boise State’s Idaho Policy Institute

Fry teamed up with Matthew Desmond, Ph.D., and Princeton University to better understand evictions and the data surrounding them.

Desmond has studied the impacts of eviction since 2008 and has written a book titled “Eviction: Poverty and Profit in the American City.” During his initial research, he discovered there were many unknowns regarding evictions and no central database that tracks them. In 2017, he launched Eviction Lab, a website that provides nationwide eviction data.

According to Eviction Lab, Idaho’s eviction rate is .61%, which is well below the national average.

“Looking at the trends of what we’re experiencing in the state, the Lab thinks the numbers they have are too low,” Fry said. “When I look at it, I think that’s the case, too.”

The Policy Institute hopes to expand on the data to help paint a clearer picture of evictions in the Gem State.

“The question we’re trying to answer is what the actual scope of our issue is,” Fry said. “We just don’t know enough about evictions in Idaho. Are there more than current data shows, or is it accurate?”

Idaho eviction data difficult to compile

It starts with gathering the data, which is a lot easier said than done. To get an accurate picture, Fry reached out to the Idaho Supreme Court,  sheriffs’ offices and county courts in hopes of finding the paper trail.

In the little research Fry has done so far, she’s found this process difficult. For one, Idaho Supreme Court records didn’t specify eviction cases before 2015. However, a new case management system does have county-level eviction records and Fry hopes to access the data.

A second part of Fry’s research will include interviewing property owners and tenants to gather their experiences regarding the eviction process. Fry believes this type of research will help build on the type of data she’s able to gather through the courts and help solidify Idaho’s eviction rate.

“What we do at the Policy Institute is we try to provide data for decision makers. Right now, it doesn’t seem that we have the best data possible on evictions and therefore it’s really hard for a policy maker or a business owner or a nonprofit to know how to react because we don’t really know what’s going on,” Fry said.

Housing resources available for Idahoans

Idaho Housing and Finance Association (IHFA) has free HUD-approved housing counselors who can help any Idahoan discuss housing needs. IHFA’s counselors can provide information about resources, provide financial planning tools, help with budgets, and help people apply for housing assistance.

Ada County’s Indigent Assistance Program provides help to Ada County residents. In some cases, the program can help residents pay medical bills, rent, or utilities. Residents can file for rent or utility assistance two weeks before their bill is due and must file before any eviction notice is filed.

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