Almost a month before the federal moratorium on evictions expired, Colorado passed a few laws that Democratic leaders say will help tenants struggling to pay rent.
Among the housing-related bills that Colorado Governor Jared Polis recently signed, one, SB21-242, expands the housing development grants program by allocating $ 30 million in federal funding and $ 15 million. dollars of state funding. The money can be used for rent assistance and support services, as well as hotels, motels and other properties that can be used as shelters or affordable housing for homeless people.
Polis also signed HB21-1121, which extends the time before an eviction from 48 hours after a court order to 10 days and prevents landlords from raising rent more than once in a 12-month period, with immediate effect. .
Representative Iman Jodeh, Democrat of Aurora and sponsor of the tenant rights bill, called the bill a huge victory for human dignity and a way to help prevent homelessness.
“It gives people a chance to pay off their rent or make some sort of plan with their landlord and come up with a solution,” she said.
Under SB21-173, landlords will have restrictions on when and how much they can pay late fees to tenants, making eviction more difficult. In addition, law HB21-1329, which was enacted, sets aside $ 550 million in federal funding from the American Rescue Plan Act to address affordable housing issues and creates a housing task force that will make recommendations this summer (to be considered by the legislature in 2022).
And HB21-1271, also enacted, creates three grant programs that local governments can use for affordable housing solutions over the next three years.
Colorado is on the brink of an affordable housing crisis that will require unprecedented action from the public, private and nonprofit sectors, according to a non-partisan Common Sense Institute white paper released last week.
“This is a huge problem not only for Colorado, but across the country and especially with the continued rise in the cost of living here,” said Democratic State Senator Brittany Pettersen of Lakewood. “And so I hope the extra dollars we’re going to focus on this summer for transformational change will really help… ensure that if you’re working in a community, you can actually afford housing in that area.
While Republicans have not joined Democrats in sponsoring most housing bills, GOP Senate Minority Leader Chris Holbert of Douglas County co-sponsored the bill allocating federal funding. housing solutions because he wants a seat at the table when the housing task force makes recommendations.
But he thinks Democrats need to stop focusing on evictions as things return to normal.
“People need to know that with the rollout of the COVID vaccine – and I pray that we continue on a positive path – if we move away from the pandemic, get people back to work and school, back to normal, it means people go back to work and pay their rent or their mortgage, ”he said.
Holbert hopes the task force will partner with agencies that have been successful in addressing housing issues in the past, such as the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority. He also wants to explore the idea of converting unused commercial space into housing.
The federal moratorium on evictions, which began in September 2020, has been extended until July 31, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The moratorium does not allow landlords to evict tenants who meet the criteria.
On June 30, Polis extended a decree by 30 days that requires landlords to give tenants facing eviction 30 days’ notice, instead of 10 days, before taking legal action.
Between May 12 and June 7, 231,000 Coloradians – 17% – were not caught up on rent, according to an analysis of non-partisan Census Bureau data from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. This is higher than the national rate of 1 in 7 people.
The study notes that the numbers are likely underestimated due to non-response, especially groups that are younger, have lower education levels, and identify as black or Latino.
Senior research analyst Alicia Mazzara noted that the rate of American households in arrears of rent is still above 10 million people, but below the peak of 15 million at the end of January.
“People of color, especially families with children, have always been more likely to report difficulty paying rent during the pandemic,” she wrote in the report.