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Idaho housing group looks for more protections on affordable housing and new development

Earlier this month, Ridenbaugh Place apartments were demolished and are set to be replaced by luxury, student housing created by a St. Louis developer.

BOISE, Idaho — For the past three years, the proposal of a new project to demolish and replace the Ridenabugh Place Apartments near Boise State University has been a battle. Earlier this month, the apartments were demolished and are set to be replaced by luxury, student housing created by a St. Louis developer.

"It's devastating because I've been working with the community since 2019, the 34 people that lived here," Intermountain Fair Housing Council (IFHC) investigator Lori DiCaire described as she looked at the land where the apartments once stood. 

DiCaire and IFHC have stood with tenants for years to save the apartment complex and to make sure they were not without a roof over their heads. After a series of attempts to stop the approval of the development, the group's latest issue was to make sure agreements between the new developer, SubText, and the tenants were honored.

"We raised the issue of the fact that the residents were not being taken care of and given the financial and assisted help that they were promised," DiCaire said.

In response to IFHC's claims, City of Boise Mayor Lauren McLean issued a statement saying the city would not issue any permits or allow the developer to move forward with the project without the Tenant Assistance Package in place. 

"We’re committed to making sure residents get what they were promised as part of the approval of this project," McLean wrote in an Oct. 6 statement.

The apartment complex was demolished earlier this month so KTVB reached out to the City of Boise to check if what was promised had been fulfilled. City of Boise communication director Justin Corr said it was. 

He mentioned the Package included a six months’ notice, a payment of $4,000 to $5,500 to relocate, assistance in finding a new home, and the ability to live in the proposed project at a reduced rate for up to three years. 

While what was promised had been fulfilled to the tenants, DiCaire's fight is not over yet, and would like to see the city do more to protect affordable housing.

"I mean it exposes a real problem with the land use system, where an out-of-state developer can basically buy existing affordable housing and in the entire land use process there's no accounting for the human impact," DiCaire said.

Dicaire added she's also worried about the economic, environmental, and social impacts this type of growth and development can cause. IFHC would like to see the city mandate considerations for those impacts into land-use law, similar to something she says the city of Boston did with "Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing overlay." 

DiCaire would like the city to require developers to do more to prevent and address displacement and make sure Boise has affordable housing.

"They put it in their zoning code so that any development has to go through a checklist of looking at the impacts," DiCaire explained. "Without that, it's just like a free for all then obviously the first thing to go is the low-hanging fruit of our affordable housing."

IFHC and the city will meet within the next month to discuss more of these issues, according to DiCiare.

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