Gov. Jared Polis issued an executive order Friday blocking the eviction of thousands of Coloradans who are behind on rent and are awaiting rental assistance from the state, a move endorsed by dozens of state and local officials.
Polis's order blocks landlords from evicting renters who've applied for rental assistance and are still awaiting its arrival. It gives renters 30 days to "cure" their back-rent, which advocates say has been delayed often because of the state's review process and timing. The order forestalls what housing advocates warned was a looming wave of evictions, set to be triggered by the Sunday expiration of two other protections.
Those two orders - a previous Polis order that gave renters 30 days to address back rent and a federal mandate that blocked evictions for tenants financially impacted by the pandemic - have been in place for months. Though housing advocates have praised them as vital to keeping many tenants housed, they've also complained that the state's distribution of rental assistance is still backlogged. Many renters, the advocates have said, wait several weeks between applying and receiving the money; without more time to address past-due rent, many would be evicted before rental assistance arrives.
A problem by itself, the lag was particularly concerning to advocates with the expiration of the federal moratorium and Polis's longer grace period. Renters, they said, could soon be evicted while they awaited the state to finally work through their application.
But Polis's order Friday addresses that concern without blocking evictions altogether. It was also what advocates had sought: Earlier this week, a large group of people and institutions - including state and local lawmakers, mayors, housing officials, councilmembers, hospitals and school districts - wrote Polis a letter urging him to give more time to renters who're awaiting aid from the state.
“With the expiration of the CDC National Eviction Moratorium, the time is now to be proactive in pursuing relief,” Rick M. Garcia, the executive director of the Department of Local Affairs, said in a statement. “Both landlords and tenants should remain in close contact with DOH regarding their applications, and landlords should refrain from evicting their tenants for nonpayment while they are pursuing help. We appreciate Coloradans’ patience as we approve applications and supply rental relief.”
Advocates have long warned about the lengthy delays in the rental assistance program. Though the state is not currently publishing how many outstanding applications have yet to be processed, Kinsey Hasstedt of Enterprise Community Partners said that data from earlier this month indicated that more than 20,000 applications and more than $100 million in aid are still pending. The state's online tracking, which does not include pending applications, indicates that the state has approved more than 40,600 applications totaling just over $118 million.
"We helped people submit applications in March, and some haven't gotten approval yet," said Kalena Wang, the housing systems campaign manager for the East Colfax Community Collective, earlier this week.