A housing building in Denver’s Capitol Hill neighborhood on Aug. 7, 2020. (Moe Clark/Colorado Newsline)
An estimated 70,000 more Colorado households will be severely rent burdened — spending more than half of their income on housing costs — in the coming months as assistance programs wind down and savings accounts dry up, according to a state housing analyst.
As of July, 165,567, or 22% of Colorado renters, were considered extremely low income, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition.
“One of the golden questions that’s still out there, and I don’t have an answer to it, is how many households we expect to be evicted,” Connor Everson, a housing policy analyst with the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, said during a Special Eviction Prevention Task Force meeting on Sept. 24. The 10-member task force was convened by Gov. Jared Polis on Aug. 26 to establish eviction prevention policy recommendations in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
During Everson’s presentation to the task force, he estimated the greatest need of housing assistance will occur during the early months of 2021, as households continue to deplete their savings and a federal eviction moratorium lifts. He said historically the state hasn’t had a clear picture on the true number of evictions, especially those that occur without going through the formal legal process.
He said that the ever-changing economic landscape, in addition to the state eviction moratorium, which ended on June 13, and the federal moratorium that began on Sept. 4, have made tracking the extent of the issue more challenging.
“One of the things that really jumped out to me when we first ran these models a few months ago was that hugely positive impact that those $600 a week unemployment insurance payments had for so many folks out there,” he said, referring to a supplemental unemployment benefit, which ceased in late July, that was provided through the CARES Act. “There’s research institutions which found that those payments have actually decreased poverty, compared to 2019.”
What the state eviction data says
Between the months of June and September, when there were no eviction moratoriums in place, 2,914 evictions were filed throughout Colorado, according to court data obtained from the Colorado Judicial Branch. Of those filed, 2,281 resulted in an eviction.
During the same timeframe last year, 9,771 cases were filed and resulted in evictions. The decrease this year coincided with an executive order that extended the eviction notice time landlords were required to give tenants and an increase in local, state and federal financial assistance in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Though the federal eviction moratorium allows more people to remain in their homes during the pandemic, it doesn’t stop households from falling behind on rent or mortgage payments.
During this week’s Eviction Prevention Task Force meeting, the group discussed policy proposals such as eliminating rental payment late fees, closing loopholes in the federal eviction moratorium, and extending renters’ 30-day eviction notice period. Their final meeting is scheduled for Oct. 2.
“We have seen a little bit of an uptick in terms of the lack of the perceived ability of renters and homeowners to make their next month’s housing payment, and also an uptick in their self prescribed likelihood of leaving their homes as well,” Everson said. “So this is something that is slightly concerning.”
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As of Sept. 23, 140,000 Coloradans did not pay their rent on time or were not caught up on their payments, according to data collected by the weekly Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey.
In the same survey, 151,000 Coloradans responded that they have no confidence in their ability to pay for their housing next month. In terms of eviction or foreclosure, 35,000 people responded that it was somewhat likely in the next month, and 40,000 said it was very likely.
Landlords group: ‘Not seeing a catastrophic failure to pay’
Andrew “Drew” Hamrick with the Colorado Apartment Association, a trade group that advocates on behalf of landlords and homeowners, said during the meeting that his organization has not witnessed a significant increase in the number of evictions occurring, and stressed that rental payment rates remain strong.
“What we’ve seen consistently across the board in Colorado, is that there’s about a two percentage point drop this year from last year,” Hamrick said, referring to the number of renters who have been unable to pay their rent. “I think that’s so important because you’re just not seeing a catastrophic failure to pay, you’re also not seeing things worsening.”
Hamrick said that the number of evictions is not linked to unemployment rates. “It’s counterintuitive,” he said. “I think most of us would think that unemployment is a pretty good measure of hard times and that evictions would go up in hard times, but they really don’t.”
He explained that “when the market is hot, renters are less invested in their current place to live.”
“They believe they’ve got another place to move to, and landlords aren’t nearly as invested in their residents during good times cause they believe they have another customer waiting in the wings,” Hamrick said. “So the parties aren’t working as hard to resolve their disputes over possession.”
Chris Romer, and member of the Eviction Prevention Task Force who advocated for rental late fees to be waived during the pandemic, pushed back against Hamrick’s presentation, stressing that the Apartment Association’s data does not give an indication of what will unfold in the coming months, and that too much focus is being put on the housing market and not on the actual individuals facing hardship.
“I’ve yet to see the Apartment Association come to the table with a very good solution other than to say, ‘please don’t change anything,’” said Romer, a former state senator who is now the CEO of a climate-change mitigation company.
“And let’s be clear, the people you represent have the assets in our society, and the people who are going to get evicted are the ones who are hurting right now,” he added.
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