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The end of the eviction moratorium in August has not yet triggered a steep uptick in demand for assistance. Photo by Getty Images

Colorado Springs residents facing financial struggles following the end of the eviction moratorium can still apply for a piece of about $20 million in federal assistance. 

The federal moratorium that ended in August was intended to keep residents housed during the coronavirus pandemic. The true ramifications of ending the housing protections will likely take time to play out, said Evan Caster, manager of homelessness prevention initiatives with the Community Health Partnership, the administering agency for the Pikes Peak Continuum of Care.

Caster's agency has been receiving more inquiries from tenants, and it's seeing an uptick in requests from residents who are homeless, he said. As of last week, 834 homeless people had completed a housing needs assessment, up about 100 from a year ago, he said. 

He expects the end of the moratorium trigger a backlog of eviction cases in the courts. 

"It may take some time to really feel the repercussions," he said. 

Across El Paso County about $9 million has been distributed to renters, and $4.9 million has been distributed to landlords to help keep people housed during the pandemic through two federal programs, the city's community development division manager, Steve Posey, told the Colorado Springs City Council on Monday. 

The more than $20 million still available to city residents includes funding from the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act and the American Rescue Plan Act. 

He said he believes an immediate spike in evictions following the end of the moratorium was avoided because assistance has flowed out to those who need it, he said.

"We have been very deliberate about putting in place the framework to get those funds out," he said. 

His staff have been intervening to address applications stuck in the system, he said. 

The need across the state for housing assistance was demonstrated in a Household Pulse Survey from the U.S. Census Bureau that showed only 57.4% of Colorado renters were highly confident that they could pay next month’s rent during the final weeks of August, said Charles Brennan, deputy director of research at the Colorado Center on Law and Policy.

The same survey estimated that 72,000 Coloradans were behind on rental payments, and of those, 42.3% reported applying for rental assistance. About 89% of those who applied were still waiting for a response at the end of August, he wrote. 

"These numbers are estimates but suggest to me that a large share of renters in the state are facing some degree of housing insecurity," he said. 

The state recently changed how applications from landlords are processed in recent weeks after hearing from property owners who were not getting timely payments, and that should help assistance flow, Caster said. 

He also recommended that tenants who owe back rent maintain good relationships with their landlord, who can apply for assistance directly and may be needed to provide information for renters' applications, he said. 

Those who lose housing can face an extended hunt for a new home. For example, those with a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher have spent 120 days looking for a rental, he said. 

The housing shortage could be driven in part by fewer people moving out, he said.

At the same time, a report sponsored by the Colorado Division of Housing shows that average rent is soaring across town. 

In the second quarter, average rent jumped up to $1,429.58, up $183.11 than in the second quarter of 2020, the Gazette reported previously. 

Residents in need of housing assistance can call United Way at 211 or apply through the state at cdola.colorado.gov/rental-mortgage-assistance.

Contact the writer at mary.shinn@gazette.com or (719) 429-9264.

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