Six members of Gov. Jared Polis’ eviction task force have asked the governor to extend his moratorium blocking landlords from removing tenants from their homes, days before both his and a federal order are set to expire.
“Many of us expressed concern during our tenure on the Task Force with a December 31st end date for these critical protections and recommended longer terms, including through the end of the pandemic,” the members wrote. “It is essential for both renters and landlords that state policymakers ensure continuity in these legal protections, along with housing assistance funds.”
Polis said Friday that he plans to extend the order briefly, through next week. His order, instituted in October, built on and strengthened a weaker moratorium from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Under Polis’ move, landlords cannot begin eviction proceedings against tenants who have been affected by the pandemic, while the CDC had allowed filings to continue up until renters are actually removed from their homes.
Jennie Rodgers, a signatory to the letter and the vice president of Enterprise Community Partners, said there was no reason to believe the problems facing renters will be alleviated by the end of December.
She said the situation has not improved for renters or landlords; if anything, she said, it’s worsened since Polis ordered a moratorium in October. While Colorado has not instituted a shutdown order since the spring, Denver and other parts of the state have closed in-person dining and limited capacity at other public-facing businesses.
“What we’ve been hearing from the providers of emergency housing assistance is that demand is growing,” she said. “Applications for housing assistance both from tenants and landlords continue to go up.”
The state’s eviction task force projected earlier this year that hundreds of thousands of renters in Colorado faced eviction. An analysis by the COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project estimated that 20% of Colorado’s tenants are behind on their rent. Before Polis’ moratorium, eviction filings had begun to tick back upward, though they remained below their pre-pandemic levels.
Polis told reporters Friday that his plan was for a “short-term extension,” pending a congressional deal to send more housing assistance to the states in a deal that could include a federal moratorium through February.
The Associated Press reported that negotiations, which Polis said could be settled as soon as this weekend, may include “$25 billion in rental assistance as well as a new round of stimulus checks, bonus unemployment benefits and many other efforts to deliver aid.”
Polis spokesman Conor Cahill said last week that the governor had “committed to keeping these protections in place until (Dec.) 31st.” That is also when the CDC’s moratorium will expire.
Rodgers said that date was arbitrary and that there was no reason to believe the problems plaguing renters and landlords will be alleviated by then. But she also said that individual states cannot continue addressing the problem themselves.
“States can’t print money like the federal government,” she said.
She praised Colorado’s response to the crisis and the tens of millions of dollars leaders here had dumped into helping renters and landlords. But, she said, “that’s not sustainable over time.”
In their letter, the task force members urged Polis to “act quickly to protect the health of our residents, neighbors, and communities statewide.”
“If the current protections are allowed to expire on December 31st,” they wrote, “we face a mass eviction event in the middle of winter at a time when assuring resident health and safety is essential to protect our citizens, our public health, and our economy.”