By Shawn Chitnis

DENVER (CBS4) – A national eviction moratorium created to help those struggling to pay their rent because of hardships during the pandemic expires at the end of Saturday. Gov. Jared Polis amended an executive order on Friday to give them more time to collect the money they applied for from rental assistance programs.

The latest amendment takes effect on Aug. 1 and gives renters 20 more days.

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“It is keeping renters in their homes while renter assistance works its way through the system to stabilize households, to stabilize landlords, and to stabilize the state,” said Sam Gilman, the co-founder of the COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project. “Nobody who has applied for rental assistance should be evicted.”

Gilman co-founded the project last spring soon after the pandemic. He made it his full-time job along with other staff members. He acknowledges that for affordable housing to remain available, the money has to ultimately end up in the hands of landlords. Those who often run smaller developments, or individual homes that can provide low-cost options for renters, need consistent payments to cover their own mortgages for their properties.

“Those people are not well capitalized. They can’t both make their mortgage payment and not receive rent so any delay and non-payment hits those folks especially hard,” said Drew Hamrick, general counsel for the Colorado Apartment Association. “It’s in a housing provider’s best interest to get money rather than have empty housing.”

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Hamrick says rental payments and evictions are stable given the circumstances of the past year during the pandemic. He worries too many extensions for payments will force some landlords, those often offering the most affordable units, to sell in a hot housing market. That move would take away more units when there is already a low supply of apartments, Hamrick said.

“We really want to keep naturally occurring affordable housing in the hands of landlords, and we do need to get rental assistance there quickly,” Gilman told CBS4 on Friday. “Every eviction is a tragedy, and every eviction is a heartbreak.”

Gilman acknowledged the concern about losing landlords, but also said allowing someone to go through eviction will set them and their family back significantly as they try to come out of the pandemic. While he and the COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project support the move by the governor to amend his executive order, they say he needs to go further to give tenants more protection.

The Colorado Department of Local Affairs, which oversees the Division of Housing, acknowledged the governor’s amended executive order recommends tenants not be evicted. The change hopes to cover residents into the month of August but it does not provide the level of protection the mortarium previously did.

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“We continue to ask the governor to implement the more straightforward, comprehensive proposal recommended earlier this week by a broad, bi-partisan coalition of mayors, local elected officials, and community groups,” a statement from the COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project said.

A letter signed by the leaders and groups mentioned in that statement calls on Polis to defend those making a good faith effort to make payments with the help of financial assistance through Sept. 30.

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The State of Colorado approved more than $118 million in funds as of this week, according to DOLA. It can take between four to six weeks for people to receive that money after its approved. Next week DOLA says it will begin to move toward an electronic bill pay system that will help applicants get their money sooner.

Hamrick worries if there is a general rule instead of a case-by-case exception, people who are never likely to qualify for assistance will get protection and prevent landlords from collecting the money they need.

“The devil is in the detail with those kind of proposals,” Hamrick said on a video conference call.
“It will cover a situation where the resident receiving funding is just not going to happen.”

Gilman advises anyone facing eviction to seek help and apply for assistance immediately, he says they do not need to leave their home until there is a court order and the sheriff’s office informs them they must leave the property.

Housing Resource:

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Neighborhood Development Collaborative

Shawn Chitnis