Colorado’s pandemic rental assistance programs get closer look from state auditors

Audits will evaluate the state’s rental assistance program for landlords, administrative costs associated with distributing relief funds

A rental unit in Denver's Capitol Hill neighborhood on April 24, 2021. (Moe Clark/Colorado Newsline)

Colorado’s Division of Housing within the state’s Department of Local Affairs is getting a closer look from state auditors this year.

Two performance audits are underway to evaluate the state’s rental assistance program for landlords and the administrative costs associated with distributing the pandemic relief funds that were allocated by lawmakers during last year’s special legislative session. 

“The fact that there is a lot of fraud in other programs that have been rolled out, I think that it makes sense that emergency rental assistance was chosen (for) a discretionary audit,” said Alison George, director of the Division of Housing, during the monthly state housing board meeting on May 11.

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The audits, which are being conducted by the Office of the State Auditor — a nonpartisan agency in Colorado’s Legislative Branch — are expected to be published in late summer or early fall.

The first performance audit will focus on the state’s Property Owner Preservation Program, or POP, which was launched at the beginning of the pandemic and allows landlords to apply for rental assistance on behalf of their tenants, according to George. As of May 11, the state had approved 30,874 applications from landlords totaling more than $76 million.

The second audit, which was initiated at the request of a state lawmaker, will look generally at the administrative costs associated with distributing pandemic relief funds for the state’s rental assistance programs. State lawmakers directed $54 million to DOLA for rental assistance during the state’s three-day special legislative session for COVID-19 relief that adjourned on Dec. 2.

“It’s the prerogative of the legislators to request audits, and it’s diving into the administrative costs of running programs, which I think is a smart thing to be looking at,” George said.

The OSA is also auditing other state agencies regarding the administrative costs associated with distributing pandemic funds. Those agencies include the Colorado Department of Education, Department of Human Services, the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and International Trade, and the Colorado Judicial Branch.

The audits are expected to be publicly released in September.

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