DENVER (CBS4) – Demand for housing in metro Denver has reached a tipping point with rents three times the national average and vacancies at historic lows.

Nearly half of Coloradans in a recent survey say they know friends or family who are now homeless. It’s a staggering statistic that has prompted mayors from 41 cities in the metro area to launch a first-of-its-kind effort.

“Very few of us in this region aren’t untouched by this issue,” Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said.

They are pooling more than $50,000 for a landlord incentive program aimed largely at helping veterans like John Claybaugh who was homeless for eight years.

“I believe without my veterans status I would still be homeless,” Claybaugh said.

Claybaugh found a place with the help of a federal voucher, but those vouchers haven’t kept up with rising rents. The mayors are offering landlords who accept the vouchers up to $1,600 to help cover some the shortfall and repairs.

“When you don’t have a home, you don’t have a community, you don’t have an anchor,” Ryan Boykin with Atlas Real Estate said.

Boykin was the first to step up, not only setting aside 200 units for the homeless, but pitching in $5,000.

“I’d like to do it with a catch, and that catch is I’m going to match dollar for dollar any other dollar that comes in from the private sector only, because I want to see the private sector step forward and I want to see another $25,000. $50,000 in the next couple months to make sure that this happens in a way that it should,” Boykin said.

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