Emergency housing funds could dry up by mid-November, state official says

A ‘spike’ in evictions possible in coming months, according to Division of Housing

By: - August 13, 2020 1:05 pm

A housing building in Denver’s Capitol Hill neighborhood on Aug. 7, 2020. (Moe Clark/Colorado Newsline)

There wasn’t much good news announced during Colorado’s monthly State Housing Board meeting on Tuesday.

The meeting came as fear continues to mount among housing advocates and nonprofits over a looming eviction crisis. On Aug. 10, Gov. Jared Polis extended an executive order that requires Colorado landlords to give tenants 30 days notice before filing an official eviction notice. The order gives tenants more time to try and come up with missed rent, but evictions are still allowed to proceed. 

“We are in unprecedented times,” said Alison George, director of the Colorado Division of Housing. “Things are incredibly challenging for folks, and everyone in all corners of the state are burning on all ends to try to serve folks and keep people housed.”

This week, President Donald Trump extended an executive order that suspends foreclosures until at least Aug. 31. He also directed the secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the secretary of the Treasury to identify additional funding sources to support renters and homeowners. But details are still pending. 

“At this moment in time, we do not have direction from the federal department of how those funds might be deployed,” George said.

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The state’s Property Owner Preservation program, through which landlords can apply for direct assistance, has seen a tremendous number of requests since its applications opened on July 15. “In the first two weeks, we had over $2 million in requests from property owners, just to give you a sense of the demand,” George said.

The Division of Housing is working with the nonprofit Brothers Redevelopment to create a centralized application process to help the Division better track and streamline their applications. Currently, the state’s emergency rental and mortgage assistance programs are administered through 20 different local agencies, according to George.

During the monthly meeting, George said it was unclear how long the mortgage assistance funds will last. But they’re likely to run out sooner rather than later. “We have between $17 and $19.6 million,” she said. “So, if the demand maintains at the level that it is, then we’ll run out toward the middle to the end of November.” 

George added that she’s been monitoring the Census Bureau’s weekly Pulse Survey, which tracks how the pandemic is affecting households across the country. In the last survey she saw, 260,000 Coloradans responded that they did not know how they were going to pay their rent in August. 

I anticipate there will be a spike in evictions next month.

– Alison George, director of the Colorado Division of Housing

“That is significant,” George said, adding that she will continue to assess how Trump’s recent executive order will affect those numbers.  “I anticipate there will be a spike in evictions next month.” 

Samuel Betters, one of seven State Housing Board members, asked if George had a sense for how much money will be needed in the future to continue supporting renters and homeowners as the economic crisis progresses. 

“I’m wondering if it is time for us to start having a discussion about maybe shifting priorities at the state level,” said Betters, who served as the director of the Loveland Housing Authority for 42 years before retiring in 2018. “Perhaps even as drastically as considering reducing new construction funding and starting to support maintenance programs that keep people in their homes and their apartments.” 

Betters said he recognizes that it’s a difficult discussion of trade-offs. “Obviously, we need new construction. We need renovation and preservation of existing affordable housing,” he said. “But at the same time, the consequences of hundreds of thousands of Coloradans losing their housing is not good.”

George said she hopes to share her funding projections and modeling with the group next month but stressed that even when using the most optimistic of scenarios the numbers “don’t look good.”

“We need to continue to create affordable housing as much as we can to ensure that we don’t get even further behind in a very challenging situation that we’re in now,” she added.

On Tuesday, board members also approved a rule change that sets an income limit for those applying for a loan from the Colorado Housing Investment Fund, and it defined that a single person can apply, not just families. The board also discussed three proposed housing projects, including a new 98-unit supportive housing project in Denver, which is being led by the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless.

The next State Housing Board meeting is scheduled for Sept. 8 at 1 p.m.

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Moe Clark
Moe Clark

Moe Clark is a former Colorado Newsline reporter that covered criminal justice, housing and homelessness, and other social issues.

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