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Websites help families displaced by Boulder County fire find temporary housing

In an already tight Colorado housing market, several associations are working to make finding temporary housing easier on families displaced by the fires.

BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. — When Jeremy and Emily Thomas knew the fire would put their house in danger, they grabbed what they could before evacuating their Louisville home. 

"I said you know what, if there’s some issue with the smoke damage, it’d be good to have our computers, I’ll just pull our files out just in case, and our kids will get their favorite stuffed animal," Jeremy said. 

But their home of four years in the Cornerstone neighborhood sadly did not survive the fires, much like so many of their neighbors'.

“All of our friends and neighbors are going through the same thing, and that’s probably the most devastating part because we love our neighborhood and our neighbors are so great," Emily said. 

Standing outside of Denver's large REI store, Jeremy and Emily held a few essentials they had just picked up for their children, like snow boots. 

But at the top of their mind was where they would stay while they rebuild. And Jeremy knew something. 

“That the market was about to get flooded," he said. 

That's why the Colorado Apartment Association (CAA) and the Boulder Area Rental Housing Association (BARHA) created website portals that allow displaced families to see available rental housing units across several apartment companies and smaller landlords. 

While the Thomas family ended up landing a lease Tuesday through a friend, they initially used the portal and said it helped them have security. 

Credit: Jeremy Thomas
Some of what was left of Jeremy and Emily Thomas' Louisville home following the Marshall Fire in Boulder County.

How it works

The Colorado Apartment Association's website has a link to their portal, which lists several pages of apartment homes.

When a user clicks on a company's profile, they are taken to a page that shows contact information for the specific unit that has been reserved for displaced families due to the Marshall Fire. 

Several listings with contact information are included on the Boulder Area Rental Housing Association's website portal.

The list includes smaller landlords with single-family homes. 

The websites have been visited thousands of times since they were launched on New Year's Eve, both associations said. 

“In a situation like this, those who have lost so much are dealing with two issues – finding available housing as well as working with insurance companies to compensate for replacement housing. This housing directory addresses the first issue – finding available housing when Colorado is already in a housing crunch,” Mark Williams, executive vice president of the Colorado Apartment Association, said in a news release. 

Todd Ulrich, a board member for BARHA, said it's hard to estimate exactly how many families have been helped so far, but he estimates the number is around 30 as of Tuesday afternoon. 

Credit: Corky Scholl
From afar, a Louisville neighborhood with several homes that burned down in the Marshall Fire.

Help comes in an already tight market

It's no secret that the housing market has been tight in Colorado for some time now. 

According to CAA, recent estimates place the number of vacant apartments in the Denver metro area at around 13,000 units. 

While Jeremy and Emily went a different route to find their rental housing, they said the portal was helpful in any case. 

“The portal helped, and not only did it have all of them, it had people who had registered their houses because they want to help and they actually respond," Jeremy said. “I think if there are more homeowners out there who want to help, consolidating their listings to that place, I think it goes a long way.”

Their family has been very thankful for all of the support from the community. 

In the meantime, the Colorado Apartment Association said they expect the number of rental housing units available will continue to grow.

RELATED: $12 million donated to Boulder County Wildfire Fund

RELATED: Dozens of homes belonging to CU students, staff lost in Marshall Fire

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