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Boise City Council asking for state action on evictions

Local officials have been pressuring Little to act on evictions for the past week because they say they don't have the authority to issue a moratorium themselves.

BOISE, Idaho — Gov. Brad Little did not take any action on impending evictions statewide Wednesday when he issued a stay-home order preventing thousands of Idahoans from going to work.

This comes after Boise City Council wrote a letter asking the governor to act on the issue in order to prevent residents who can no longer work from being evicted. City Council members doubled down on Mayor Lauren McLean’s statement, saying they support the letter.

“The orders we’ve made have real-world implications on every community of this state,” McLean said at Tuesday's city council meeting. “That means on April 1 people will be struggling to pay that rent. We’ve already seen in this city we’re having to address health impacts and the needs of homeless families, of medically challenged individuals who are homeless and do everything we can do to stop homelessness.”

During the city council meeting, McLean said she is not going to “invoke police powers” to halt evictions right now and instead directed concerns from residents to Little who she said is “able to take swift action.” When asked about evictions on Wednesday, Little said more details and aid will follow, but there were no details available yet.

“We’ve had multiple conversations about what we do for the judicial side and then the conversations we have with landlords — commercial landlords and residential landlords both,” he said.

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He mentioned there may be money available for landlords who do show forgiveness to tenants in paying rent, but said, “Those details will be coming forward later.”

Boise and Ada County officials have been pressuring Little to act on evictions for the past week. Because of the structure of Idaho’s Constitution, local officials say they do not have the authority to enact a moratorium themselves.

Courts do have the authority to suspend hearings for health and safety concerns. For instance, the 5th and 7th judicial districts suspended jury trials in light of concerns about the coronavirus, according to Idaho Supreme Court spokeswoman Sara Thomas.

And eviction hearings have effectively ceased in Blaine County after an order from 5th District Administrative Judge Eric Wildman. According to the order, “only emergency matters and hearings will be conducted,” such as civil protection orders and in-custody arraignments, as well as preliminary hearings in criminal cases.

While evictions for private landlords are being debated by various leaders in Idaho, the city of Boise has waived rent for April and halted evictions in its nearly 300 units of city-owned affordable housing units.

At the city council meeting, several council members urged the community to pressure state and local officials to take action on aid for those out of work. City Council President Pro Tem Holli Woodings was especially concerned about people who work for themselves or who own small businesses who do not have access to unemployment.

“I think there are a lot of folks in our community who are justifiably scared,” she said. “The more we can put pressure on our governor and our congressional delegation to take sole proprietors and micro-businesses into account, the better we will end up. Please write our members of Congress and please write the governor.”

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