COLORADO SPRINGS — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's national eviction moratorium is set to expire at the end of June, while the latest US Census Data shows 35% of Coloradans are at risk of eviction or foreclosure.
A study from the COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project shows around 13% of renters in Colorado Springs are behind on their payments. That was reported in April.
The moratorium protected certain people who struggled to pay rent because of the financial strain caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. "This is happening every day. Ordinary people, who have lost hours, who have lost guaranteed income in some way, and it's a challenge for everyone. It could be the person living right next door to you," said Kristy Milligan, the CEO of Westside CARES.
Westside CARES is a non-profit organization providing services for neighbors in need. Milligan said they can help individuals avoid eviction and find housing, among other initiatives. She called the eviction moratorium a tremendous benefit, and is concerned about it ending. "What we're seeing is lots of people who thought that they would be financially 'right' by now, and they are just not," said Milligan, who also told News5 the calls regarding rent they are fielding have become increasingly complex.
Milligan said there is lots of federal money out there ready to help both renters and landlords. "Think early. Think often. Reach out as many places as you can," said Milligan.
Milligan said many landlords have been willing to work with their tenants. "The people who own a home with one or two units have been unfailingly accommodating, even when it puts themselves in financial trouble. It is the larger institutions that have not been working as well with people," said Milligan.
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Pikes Peak United Way is another local organization connecting residents with the resources available to help avoid eviction. They can help people apply for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, of which Colorado Springs has been allotted around $25 million. Individuals can file for up to six months of back rent, and three months of current rent. According to United Way, there is a limit of 15 months of rental assistance. "Keeping families in homes is always a good thing. Keeping families in homes where they rack up an immense amount of debt with no way out of that, is very difficult," said the Director of Community Impact for Pikes Peak United Way, Elizabeth Quevedo.
Quevedo said when United Way began helping with applications around a week ago, around seven million dollars had already been requested in applications. Since United Way started assisting residents with the process, around $200,000 more has been requested. Quevedo said it takes around four to six weeks for the money to be received, and it goes directly to the landlord. Landlords can apply for this kind of assistance, on behalf of their tenants.
Quevedo pointed out how difficult it is to find housing after being evicted. "People are worried about this eviction moratorium ending. There are a lot of people who have not been able to pay their rent for a number of months, and getting out from under that debt is impossible for many, many families... As this safety net is taken away, people are worried about becoming homeless," said Quevedo.
Quevedo said the best way to seek help before the eviction moratorium expires in June is to call 2-1-1. The calls are confidential, and operators are multilingual. Individuals can call 2-1-1 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Messages can be left after hours.
Quevedo said the number of calls to 2-1-1 increased by 200% during the pandemic. The amount of operators answering the phones has more than doubled in size. Still, the number of calls have not slowed to pre-COVID rates.
Others see the CDC's eviction moratorium ending as a chance for the country to return to normal. Destiny Bossert is the government affairs manager for the Colorado Apartment Association of Metro Denver. The association conducted a survey, and found rent payments are high in Colorado. Bossert said Colorado has outperformed the national rent payment rates since April of 2020, when the National Multifamily Housing Council began tracking them. "Housing providers have continued to work with their residents, working out payment plans, obviously not charging late fees, doing everything they can to keep residents in their homes... They really have tried, and gone above and beyond to keep people housed," said Bossert.
Bossert said the rental assistance program has been key in keeping payments up to date in Colorado. The Apartment Association is not predicting an increase in homelessness as a result of the moratorium expiring. "We didn't think the eviction moratorium was necessary, especially with rent payments so high," said Bossert.
A federal judge recently ruled the nationwide eviction moratorium exceeded the CDC's authority.