Denver low-income renters could receive free eviction legal defense
Denver decision-makers want to lower the city’s eviction rate and give renters more protections.
Why it matters: The pandemic exacerbated Denver’s existing housing crisis, leaving thousands more families unable to pay rent and at risk of being kicked out of their homes.
Driving the news: Denver City Council members Candi CdeBaca and Amanda Sawyer are pushing a proposal that would equip lower-income renters with free, permanent legal defense — representation most landlords have but few renters can afford.
- The proposal builds on the city’s eviction legal defense pilot program that launched in 2018 for residents with household incomes below 200% of the federal poverty line.
By the numbers: There were nearly 4,000 evictions in Denver last year, despite state and federal eviction moratoriums, the sponsors say, citing county court data.
- Denver ranked among the top 10 cities with the highest income needed to cover a two-bedroom rental — about $82,300 — according to a 2020 study by SmartAsset.
Details: The draft ordinance would limit eligibility to renters making 80% of area median income — $54,950 for one person and about $85,000 for a four-person household.
- It would establish a new office devoted to the program in Denver’s Department of Housing Stability.
- But the funding amount and cash source are still in the works. A council committee is slated to review the eviction defense ordinance on May 5.
The other side: The Apartment Association of Metro Denver opposes the proposal.
- "Paying attorneys for evictions that are not occurring rather than paying rent is not a sustainable solution," Drew Hamrick, general counsel for the association, told Axios.
Between the lines: "Evictions disproportionately impact BIPOC communities and create permanent barriers to housing security in the future," CdeBaca told Axios.
- "Leveling the playing field in eviction legal proceedings by providing a right to have an attorney is as basic as providing an interpreter to communicate legal language and process in plain English."
Of note: A group of tenants’ advocates have filed a similar ballot initiative, but a key difference is funding the program with $12 million annually through a $75 assessment charged to landlords per property they lease, Colorado Politics reports.
The big picture: At the state level, Democratic lawmakers also are working to beef up protections for renters with the introduction of two bills that would:
- Prevent landlords from raising rent more than once a year and require 21 days’ notice before hiking the price.
- Impose guardrails within residential rental agreements to better protect tenant rights.
This story first appeared in the Axios Denver newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard.
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