Rural Idaho Town Part of the Trend: Conservatives Seek Space | lifestyles

By NICHOLAS K. GERANIOS – Associated Press

SANDPOINT, Idaho (AP) — Linda Navarre moved to Sandpoint, Idaho, from Cleveland in 1978 when the town was made up of lumber people and hippies, “and they all got along.”

Now she hardly recognizes the small resort community near the Canadian border, which is growing rapidly as people disillusioned with life in the big city move there. Many are conservatives fed up with liberal politics in blue states.

“The division is widening,” Navarra said, adding that many of the newcomers are changing the politeness of the community. “My concern is that there are so many people who aren’t nice.”

Sandpoint is a all-season resort built on the shores of picturesque Lake Pend Oreille. It had a population of 7,300 at the 2010 census, but grew 21% over the decade to about 8,900 at the 2020 census. In addition to the natural beauty, “people come here because it’s a red state,” said longtime resident Gail Cameron , 67.

To capitalize on this trend, more and more real estate companies are touting themselves to people on the right, saying they can get them out of liberal bastions like Seattle and San Francisco and find homes in places like rural Idaho.

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Based in Sandpoint, Flee The City is a consortium of four companies specializing in the sale of real estate to conservatives in northern Idaho and western Montana. The company describes itself as a “real estate company for the vigilant”.

Flee the City has partnered with a company that offers “sustainable home design with built-in ballistic and defensive capabilities.”

Todd Savage, whose real estate firm Black Rifle is part of Flee The City, said in a brief email exchange that his business is booming thanks to “insane” left-wing politics.

One of the bigger players among right-wing real estate companies is Conservative Move, based in suburban Dallas. Founder and CEO Paul Chabot said the blue states were themselves to blame for driving Conservatives out.

“People are tired of runaway crime and enforced masking,” Chabot said.

Idaho has been the nation’s fastest-growing state for five consecutive years, growing 2.9% in 2021, driven primarily by immigration.

But the influx of people into places like Idaho has made things harder for some longtime residents. People are struggling to find housing in Sandpoint because many homes are sold after bidding wars the same day they are listed, Cameron said.

Many of these homes are being converted into vacation rentals, narrowing the market for people living in the area, Cameron said.

Carolyn Knaack, deputy director of the environmental group Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper, has lived in town for a year.

She said the confluence of the coronavirus pandemic and politics has “created a division among people”.

“I’ve been applauded and put down for wearing a mask,” she said. “I have friends who have refused to get vaccinated.”

Savage was asked if it was desirable for people to differentiate themselves according to political ideology.

“I don’t agree with the term ‘segregate,'” he wrote. “People are just voting with their feet on issues like crime, taxes, homeschooling, gun laws, mask and vaccination requirements, Orwellian laws and runaway tyranny in the sanctuary states.”

Not everyone is a fan of what savage and conservative real estate agents are doing in Sandpoint and elsewhere.

Mayor Shelby Rognstad, a Democrat, worries real estate companies that cater only to conservatives, “is pushing Idaho more and more into a playground for extremism.

“It doesn’t bode well for our sense of community here,” said Rognstad, who is campaigning for governor. “It’s a challenge to courtesy.”

Barbara Russell, who lives near Bonners Ferry, Idaho, expressed similar concerns.

Bonners Ferry feels overrun by white nationalists, said Russell, who owns a dance studio in the city of 2,600.

“They are preparing for war,” Russell said of the newcomers, who often carry guns when in town.

“New people move in and they go to city council meetings and tell people who grew up here to come back to California,” Russell said. “They sell fear, they do.”

The National Association of Realtors does not keep a record of whether any of its members market themselves based on political ideologies, spokesman Quintin Simmons said. And not all real estate agents are members of the Realtors. So it’s hard to tell if the trend of targeting conservative customers is widespread.

The Western States Center, a human rights group based in Portland, Oregon, is keeping an eye on right-wing real estate firms, member Kate Bitz said.

“It’s just the latest in several waves of politically motivated resettlements in the northwest interior,” Bitz said.

Indeed, in recent decades, various extremist groups, most notably the Aryan Nations, have attempted to establish a white homeland in northern Idaho due to the region’s small minority population.

“People in the United States are moving all the time,” Bitz said. “What worries us is when white nationalists and anti-democracy actors move into the region to organize, recruit and take control of local institutions.”

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission.

Rural Idaho Town Part of the Trend: Conservatives Seek Space | lifestyles

Source link Rural Idaho Town Part of the Trend: Conservatives Seek Space | lifestyles

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