COLORADO, USA — One pile of money used to keep people housed during the pandemic is close to running out.
Thursday, the Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) announced the state’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program, funded by federal money, would stop accepting new applications after Nov. 15 at 11:59 p.m.
After applications close, the state will continue to review and process submitted requests until "all the program funds have been awarded and disbursed."
The program will continue to pay out funding already awarded, and the state is currently reviewing thousands of pending applications it says will likely be awarded funding, too.
Since the program started, DOLA said, Coloradans received about $300 million in rental and utility help through the program. DOLA says the program served more than 36,000 households in Colorado.
“The [Emergency Rental Assistance] program has been a tremendous success here in Colorado. It's kept thousands of people in their homes,” said Zach Neumann, co-founder of the COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project.
The organization provides legal assistance to renters facing eviction, and also connects families to rental assistance through the group's Colorado Stability Fund.
“I think what we're worried about now is, what happens when this tool is no longer available? Families that are not able to pay their rent because they had an emergency -- they’ve been towed, got a flat tire, they got an unexpected medical bill. What happens now when that payment structure is no longer accessible?”
“While this temporary funding and program is coming to an end, Colorado's Department of Local Affairs will continue to work with our state and other contracted partners as we support those needing further individualized assistance,” said Melissa Nereson, Housing Recovery Manager for DOLA, in a press release Thursday.
Even after this program ends, some Colorado jurisdictions, including Denver, Boulder and Larimer counties, have their own programs that can offer rental help.
DOLA said those federal funds have been administered and spent at different rates by each jurisdiction. They encourage people to check with their county directly.
The state said since December 2021, DOLA has received an average of 3,500 applications per month for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, with the last notable “spike” in October 2021 – with 4,200 applications that month.
Earlier this month, the program stopped accepting requests from people seeking to renew their assistance (recertification). The state is only taking applications from new, first-time applicants until the mid-November cut-off.
The pandemic rocked the entire housing industry, as prices rose for both homeowners and renters, and housing supply remains a significant challenge.
A report from the Colorado Apartment Association, published in August, found a 12.6% year-over-year increase in rent prices for metro Denver, with an average rent price of $1,860. Other studies have found similar double-digit percent increases in Denver metro rent prices.
The pandemic-era eviction moratorium ended last year. Since then, the association says, eviction rates have “stabilized,” and remain within a range CAA calls a “20-year normal.”
Citing data from the Denver County Courts and the Colorado Judicial Branch, the association reports 3,871 eviction filings statewide in September 2022, down slightly from 3,921 in August.
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