DENVER — The city is headed toward a record number of evictions this year as tenants struggle to keep up with soaring rent.
Some Denver City Council members and community leaders are now calling on Mayor Mike Johnston to increase funding in his budget for emergency rental assistance amid fears that the situation will get much worse.
Denver leaders are still in the middle of putting together next year’s city budget. It won’t be finalized for a few more weeks.
On Monday, the city council will deliver a package of recommendations to the mayor’s office, asking for additional funding for a variety of programs, including rental assistance.
The latest data from Denver County Court shows there were 1,196 eviction filings in August and 1,174 in September, bringing the total number of eviction filings this year to 9,220.
Officials with the Denver Department of Housing Stability believe there could be another 3,000 eviction filings before the end of the year.
If that happens, it would beat the record of 10,200 eviction filings in 2010.
The median cost to rent a one-bedroom apartment in Denver now stands at $1,801, according to the home rental platform Zumper. That's $76 higher than last year.
“It’s unbelievably expensive. People cannot afford to live in Denver, and they can't afford to live in Colorado,” said Zach Neumann, who co-founded the Community Economic Defense Project, which provides legal help for people facing eviction.
Neumann said eviction filings only tell part of the story.
“For every person that's filed against an eviction, there are two other households that have just thrown up their hands and said, ‘You know what? I can't pay the rent. I'm behind. I'm going to self-evict. I'm just going to move out. I'm going to try to figure it out,’” said Neumann.
Neumann’s group and more than a dozen other community organizations are now calling on Johnston to provide more money for emergency rental assistance.
Neumann told Denver7 earlier this year that evictions lead to homelessness.
“it's not just the humane thing to do to stop evictions. It also is the most cost-effective way to respond to homelessness, stopping it in the first place,” said Neumann.
Johnston proposed spending $12.6 million on rental assistance.
But the community groups and a majority of city council members want the mayor to increase that by $17 million, bringing the total allocated for rental assistance next year to $30 million.
“Bluntly put, this is an emergency. There's no question that the funds will be needed,” said Denver City Councilwoman Sarah Parady. “We're talking about shelter. We're talking about more people becoming unhoused and ending up living on our streets.”
At a recent budget hearing, the mayor explained why funding rental assistance was more difficult this year.
“The big challenge we're facing here in rental assistance is last year we had about $20 million of funding. $17 million of that was state and federal,” said Johnston. “That all disappeared.”
Johnston said with the loss of state and federal funding, the city increased its spending on rental assistance from $3 million to $12 million.
“So we are all in on this,” Johnston said.
Still, the council and community groups hope the mayor’s team will be able to find additional funding elsewhere.
The community organizations suggested the city tap into reserves.
“Absent other funding sources, we believe the City should draw on substantial cash reserves — held back for precisely this kind of emergency — to invest in stabilizing renters while continuing the critical work of re-housing people,” they wrote.
Johnston is expected to respond to the city council’s recommendations by Friday, approving or rejecting their proposals.
A public hearing on the budget will be held on Oct. 23.
The council may offer amendments on Oct. 30 or Nov. 6.
A final vote on the budget will take place on Nov. 13.