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DOLA increases spending on rent relief, housing assistance to address COVID-19 housing insecurity

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Robert Davis

(The Center Square) — The Colorado Department of Local Affairs' Division of Housing (DOH) announced it received $2.6 million in federal CARES Act funds and spent another $8 million on redevelopment projects in October.

The funds were distributed following the publication of the final report by the Special Eviction Prevention Task Force, a group of property owners and housing professionals appointed by Gov. Jared Polis in September and given 30 days to compile recommendations to address Colorado’s housing problem.

Among the report’s recommendations were increasing rental assistance to those who could demonstrate economic hardship and implementing an eviction moratorium consistent with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. Gov. Polis signed an executive order implementing the recommendations last week.

DOH said the CARES Act funds will go to the Property Owner Preservation Program (POP), and the redevelopment projects will address homelessness and housing insecurity arising from the coronavirus pandemic.

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Under POP, DOLA distributes biweekly payments to landlords whose tenant filed a declaration of need for rental assistance. The property owner must also show their property meets the program’s housing quality standards and can only apply for rent dating back to March 1.

Meanwhile, funds distributed for redevelopment projects will go toward constructing housing units for low-income individuals and families and those experiencing homelessness.  

In Denver, Brothers Development received $1.44 million to build a 72-unit permanent supportive housing complex offering services from the Brain Injury Alliance of Colorado (BIAC will be available to residents on the ground floor of the building).

Similar projects in Breckenridge, Lamar, and Colorado Springs will add over 300 more affordable units serving families and individuals making between 30% and 100% Area Median Income (AMI), costing DOLA another $5.7 million.

“Housing insecurity has become one of the most concerning byproducts of the COVID-19 pandemic,” DOLA Executive Director Rick Garcia said in a statement. “Under the leadership of Governor Polis, we are able to provide some of the most expansive rental assistance in the country.”

However, some housing advocates are concerned state relief funds are not being used to address the underlying issues of housing insecurity.

Terese Howard of Denver Homeless Out Loud, a housing advocacy organization, told The Center Square in an email that she’s glad some funds are being distributed, but it’s important to contextualize the issue.

“This plan is to build 72 affordable units in Denver, but nothing for people below 30% AMI. There are thousands of people sleeping on the city streets at night, and another 20,000 students in unstable housing. What about them?” she said.