POCATELLO, Idaho - On Monday morning, hundreds of realtors, homeowners, and housing advocates in eastern Idaho were recognizing Fair Housing Month as April winds down.
Speakers from across the state defined what "fair housing" is, saying the goal right now across the state is to nix the problem of housing discrimination, making it easier for everyone to purchase or rent a home or apartment.
Intermountain Fair Housing Council executive director Zoe Ann Olson said there is a growing problem with people not renting or selling to those of a certain race, gender, religion, age, or even to those with disabilities.
She said if we break down those barriers, that could actually help the housing market.
"They cannot discriminate in certain areas, so it opens up the housing market, making more businesses, families, families with children, and those with disabilities welcome in the community, and that's what is important," Olson said.
She said realtors in the region are struggling to sell some of the previously foreclosed homes on the market because of, not only lending barriers, but the discrimination barriers as well.
"It's not necessarily increased foreclosure rate in terms of more numbers, it's that they are not turning over as quickly as we'd like to see," she said.
City councilman and realtor Jim Johnston said he is also noticing these homes are hard to sell, and many people are not wanting to purchase a home they will have to remodel themselves since that can get costly.
"There are a lot of the foreclosure properties that are on the market and a lot of people don't want to do the fix-ups that are necessary," Johnston said. "People want things ready to go...there are still a tremendous number of foreclosures and people have not weathered the downturn in the economy."
As some of the housing prices diminish, Olson said it's still not enough to integrate more minorities into the community who are looking for affordable housing.
Pocatello does, however, offer low-income housing services from non-profits such as NeighborWorks Pocatello.
"I think that's one thing to focus on, is how we can provide more affordable housing to our growing, diverse community," Olson said.
Johnston said the number of homeowners is down in Pocatello to 67% from the 70 percentile range Pocatello stood at five years ago before the recession hit.
For a link to the Idaho Housing Association click here: http://www.idahohousing.com/
For a link to the national housing and development website click here: http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD