DENVER – Mayor Mike Johnston and city councilmembers reached a compromise Monday to decide how much the city will spend next year to keep people in their homes hours after it was revealed Denver had broken a decade-old record in the number of evictions filed so far in 2023.
After being at odds over how much money the city should spend on emergency rental assistance, Johnston and Denver City Council reached an agreement that will provide $29 million in emergency rental assistance in 2024.
“After working in close partnership with City Council, we are excited to deliver funding for rental assistance that will work both for the city budget and for Denverites,” Johnston said in a statement following the announcement. “We’re committed to not just supporting those who are currently unhoused, but preventing more Denverites from entering homeless through rental assistance.”
Initially, Johnston wanted to spend $15.6 million on emergency rental assistance, calling it a “significant expansion” of what the city normally spends – despite a drop in federal funding. Several councilmembers, however, pushed back and argued more money needed to be injected into the budget to prevent people in a tough spot from becoming unhoused.
"If we are going to work to get people off the streets and into shelters, then we need to make sure we're stopping people from entering that situation to begin with,” said Councilmember Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez, who won one of two at-large seats in the council earlier this year.
Then, on Oct. 30, Gonzales-Gutierrez, along with four of her colleagues, introduced an amendment that sought to put an additional $14.7 million to the program, bringing the total for emergency rental assistance to $30 million.
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Denver City Councilwoman Sarah Parady, who co-sponsored the amendment, told Denver7 that the $14.7 million figure was calculated based off the expected level of evictions filings the city would see in 2024.
The extra money would come from the city’s reserves, councilmembers argued, as they made their pitch to the mayor.
But Johnston pushed back, stating in a letter to council last month that he wanted to be careful not to take too much money from the city’s reserves, which are meant for emergencies, as the influx of migrants from Central and South America could place a “significant strain” in next year’s budget.
Finally on Friday, a compromise was reached between Johnston and city council to secure all but a million dollars for emergency rental assistance, as court data showed more than 1,600 eviction filings were recorded in October, bringing the total so far this year to 10,849 – effectively breaking the previous record of 10,200 eviction filings in 2010.
"This is a strong example of how the Mayor and City Council can work together to deliver great results for our city,” Johnston said, adding the new amendment will help preserve the city’s reserves “at a time when we will need to also use contingency funds to help manage the migrant crisis and support new arrivals, and respond to any emergencies.”
Parady praised the mayor's office for working with city council to pass the amendment, saying that as the Nov. 13 deadline to approve next year's budget draws near, “there is truly no more urgent budget item for our city."