One of the many challenges refugees and their sponsoring agencies face is securing decent, safe and affordable housing near public transportation and employment. For some, western housing construction, layout and systems take some getting used to; that’s a cultural and social issue, and can be addressed with case management. Another issue involves credit and background checks required by most, if not all, landlords and property management companies.
Refugees were in fact responsible and successful homeowners in their native country prior to forced relocation, although as mentioned above ‘home’ may not have resembled what we picture in Idaho. They can succeed here as well, and contribute to our communities and economy if given the chance. Every refugee receives temporary cash and/or housing assistance for a few months upon arrival, and are expected to become self-reliant in a few short months. They also receive extensive case management and support from local resettlement agencies to secure employment and adjust to life in their new community.
Fair housing law requires housing providers to treat every applicant equally, and that places a burden on them to document credit, rental and criminal history for each applicant without exception. It is important to know that official refugee status (Section 207 of the Immigration and Nationality Act), provides “immediate lawful status with all the rights and privileges of a U.S. citizen (except the right to vote or work for a government entity.)
Some property managers relying on partial or misleading information about renting to refugees have paid a high price. It’s worth the time to double-check the facts to reduce liability and the resulting legal costs.
Accepting alternate documentation.We all need to expand our concept of ‘documentation’ to remain compliant as this situation evolves. Refugees are brought into this country for resettlement by the U.S. State Department, and extensively vetted for two years or more by the Department of Homeland Security, United Nations Refugee Agency and other law enforcement agencies. Here are some examples of alternate documentation:
To get the facts and contacts regarding renting to refugees, download:
or contact the following agencies:
Agency for New Americans (208) 338-0033
Idaho Office for Refugees (208) 336-4222
International Rescue Committee (208) 344-1792
English Language Center (208) 336-5533
See also useful refugee housing/communications resources at: