Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Idaho Slumlord

Posted By on Wed, Jul 1, 2009 at 8:57 AM

I just got around to reading this June 12 piece in Newsweek about an out-of-state land lord who purchased a rental property in Pocatello a few years ago. Like many out-of-state "investors" who were snatching up cheap property in Idaho during the housing boom, this East Coast-based Newsweek reporter bought his Pocatello property sight unseen.

When he finally got around to seeing it, here's what he had to say about his property and those who paid his mortgage:

When you walk into the back apartment of the tan duplex on the west side of Pocatello, Idaho, the first thing that hits you is the smell: an acrid mixture of stale cigarettes, pet odors and filthy carpet infused with God-knows-what. Two strips of flypaper hang from the ceiling, dotted with prey. In the kitchen is an ancient gas-fired heater that, despite frigid Idaho winters, hasn't worked in over a year. The tenants, Will and Rose, seem unbothered by their home's shabby condition. Will, 22, stands in the living room, playing songs on a huge stereo, while Rose, 21, tends to their 1-year-old son. Will does have one complaint, however. The couple, unemployed and living on government disability checks, has fallen behind on their $365 monthly rent. Their landlord, Will says, is being a little hard-nosed about it. As a NEWSWEEK reporter I've heard no shortage of sad housing tales in the past few years; ordinarily I nod sympathetically and take notes. But my role here is more complicated. Though I've just met Will and Rose, and this is my first visit to their apartment, the landlord to whom they owe the back rent is me.

Read the full story here.

Pocatello's reaction to the story, which doesn't shed the most flattering light on the eastern Idaho city, is mixed. Writer Jimmy Hancock at the Idaho State Journal had this to say:
" While much of the story is a bit self-depricating, with McGinn admitting he has netted a loss on the property and probably made a really bad investment, it also has some teeth toward the Gate City.
McGinn insinuates in his story that Pocatello is somehow a bastion of low income people, writing, 'today, there’s enough poverty in Pocatello that local food banks are often empty due to high demand.'"

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