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Coloradans who’ve fallen behind on rent can apply for assistance this week as state aims to stem evictions

State leaders are accepting pre-applications for rental assistance this week from Coloradans who have fallen behind on rent and are at risk of eviction or displacement.

The Colorado Department of Local Affairs, or DOLA, is opening the three-day pre-application process at 11 a.m. Tuesday and closing the online portal at 5 p.m. Thursday.

By July 3, department leaders will randomly select pre-applicants, who will be invited to apply for emergency rental assistance. They will have eight days to submit their applications. Those selected to receive rental assistance will get funds by early September.

“For many Coloradans, rental assistance is not just a lifeline — it’s a beacon of hope,” DOLA executive director Maria De Cambra said in a news release late last week. “As we announce the continuation of our program, we are ensuring that Coloradans have access to the support they need for the stability to stay in their homes.”

The emergency rental assistance program uses $24 million from the federal American Rescue Plan Act of 2021

DOLA must spend the remaining $13 million in the fund to assist Coloradans in need of rental assistance by Sept. 30, 2025.

The average rental assistance award is $6,000 per household. Awards cannot exceed seven months-worth of rent, or $10,000, whichever is less.

Coloradans who earn 80% of their area median income or less and face an imminent threat of eviction, such as those who have a court summons, are eligible to apply this week. 

Applicants must not have received rental assistance from any program within the past year and must have experienced a life event that has impaired their ability to pay rent such as a physical or mental health issue.

People most at risk for facing evictions, including those who have received a demand for rent notice from their landlord and others who have received a formal eviction notice, will be prioritized to receive rental assistance.

DOLA has helped about 47,000 Coloradans though rental assistance programs since 2021, De Cambra said.

The pre-application process is re-opening this week, just as funds dry up in a different rental assistance program that the DOLA ran.

The Temporary Emergency Rental Assistance Grant program offered $30 million overall to 3,100 households statewide. The last applications were accepted in May.

The legislature funded the one-time grant program late last year and required the Department of Local Affairs to distribute all the money by June 30. 

“That program just ended, and DOLA will spend the entire sum of money by the deadline,” De Cambra said in an interview Monday. “This has not been an easy task. In order for us to make that goal, we were spending about $200,000 per day. We’re very grateful to our partners who helped us make sure we could get this much-needed support to Coloradans.”

Jared Polis, wearing a mask, walks in a suit next to Maria De Cambra while snow lines the ground.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, right, is flanked by Maria De Cambra, now the executive director of the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, as they head into a news conference about the state’s modeling efforts against the coronavirus, Tuesday, March 16, 2021, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

The initiative this week is launching at a time when inflation and the cost of living are increasing, making it harder for Coloradans to afford rent and remain in their homes.

Those factors are compounded by the rising number of evictions statewide.

Since Jan. 1, there have been 20,144 evictions in Colorado, up from 18,932 last year during the same time frame, a 6.4% increase, according to data collected by the Colorado Judicial Branch.

The highest number of evictions statewide this year occurred in January and April, respectively, and dropped significantly in June.

As the number of evictions steadily climbs annually, and as demand for rental assistance outweighs supply, DOLA leaders said they recognize the need to launch a permanent rental assistance program this fall, which will use $24 million to $26 million allocated from Proposition 123, the ballot initiative that sets aside millions in income tax revenue to help increase the number of affordable housing units statewide.

Mike Johnston, in a light blue button-up, talks into a mic while people hold his campaign signs behind him.
Mike Johnston, former president and chief executive officer of Gary Ventures, makes a point during a news conference to launch a campaign for an affordable housing measure on the November general election ballot, Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2022, in Aurora, Colo. The measure, which is named Make Colorado Affordable, would put up to 0.1 percent of the state’s existing taxable income toward solving the housing crisis that affects all parts of the Centennial State. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Coloradans who aren’t selected to receive rental assistance this week can apply for rental assistance through the program in the fall, De Cambra said.

The number of households that will be helped by the program starting in the fall will depend on the level of need, De Cambra said.

“We’re using the lessons learned from the work we’ve done so far to help make sure we create a program that is easy to understand and that we’re actually helping people stay housed,” she said. “What we’ve been working on as a team is how to switch from having three internal rental assistance programs to just having one.”

The Community Economic Defense Project was one of the organizations that helped distribute rental assistance through the Temporary Emergency Rental Assistance Grant program, which just ended.

“The money that went out the door played a really important role in stabilizing families,” said Zach Neumann, co-chief executive officer at the nonprofit, which provides rental assistance and legal representation to families facing eviction, housing insecurity and other financial hardships. 

Households with children face a much higher rate of eviction, Neumann said. 

Parents and their children were among those most often selected to receive assistance through the Temporary Emergency Rental Assistance Grant program because they are among those most likely to fall behind on rent and potentially be evicted, he said.

“We worked with a mom and her daughter who, without the emergency rental assistance, would have lost the home they’ve lived in for five years and would have been forced to live in their vehicle or in a motel,” Neumann said Monday. “We hear stories like that again and again and again. We believe in these programs and are excited they are going to be continuing.”