Roughly 2 million Coloradans are renters. And as for those of us who are fortunate enough to own our homes, a full 72% carry a mortgage — second highest in the nation.
If folks can’t pay because they’ve just lost their jobs (like the draw-dropping 22 million Americans who’ve filed for unemployment in the past four weeks) then they’re going to face housing insecurity if faced with late fees and eviction/foreclosure proceedings.
We all know that $1,200, even when paired with unemployment (if you can sign up!) doesn’t go far enough.
Shortly following our adjournment, we joined with over 40 of our colleagues and dozens of community organizations in signing onto a letter urging Gov. Jared Polis to implement a 90-day moratorium on all eviction and foreclosure filings.
While we commend Gov. Polis for responding (on this and many other issues), Executive Order 012 unfortunately doesn’t go far enough.
First, EO-012 isn’t mandatory. Nothing in EO-012 requires landlords to hold off on evictions, foreclosures or late fees. It just asks them to. While some landlords have stepped up — offering reduced rent or plans that allow missed payments to be made over four months — others continue to serve 10-day notices, charge late fees and file and push new actions.
Without a clear directive, courts across the state are a patchwork; nearly all of them are allowing new filings, though some have continued hearings while others are holding proceedings by phone. Likewise, some sheriffs have indicated they may enforce eviction orders while others are on hold for now.
But even the “mere” threat of eviction is enough to make many people move. Renters often don’t know their rights, and many don’t realize that there are pro bono and other lawyers available.
An early analysis by the Colorado Eviction Defense Project forecasts that up to 460,000 Coloradans are now at risk of eviction. Communities of color, the undocumented and low-income workers are especially vulnerable.
Second, EO-012 expires April 30. While the Colorado Apartment Association reports that “only” 9% of Colorado renters couldn’t make April’s rent (a 1.8% increase over January and February) we know May and June will be worse. Hence, what incomplete relief is offered is still only temporary.
We request a clear moratorium that bars all COVID-related eviction and foreclosure filings through at least June 30. This will give tenants and property owners the peace of mind that comes from knowing they won’t face immediate legal proceedings. It will also give renters, property owners and lenders breathing room to work on solutions.
Other states have already acted. Delaware, Montana, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland and others have all done more to implement statewide moratoriums. Coloradans deserve similar protections.
The last thing we need are masses of people looking for alternative housing, or joining the ranks of the homeless, because they are evicted or foreclosed on right now.
The simple truth is that in this time of social distancing and stay-at-home orders it is absolutely imperative that Coloradans have homes to stay in. A clear, sustained mandate will help promote housing security just when it is needed most.
Steven Woodrow is state representative in Colorado House District 6. Emily Sirota is state representative in Colorado House District 9.