BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. — Take the Denver metro area's strained housing market, then add the most destructive wildfire in Colorado history and the loss of more than a thousand homes.
Marshall Fire victims, forced to rent, are seeing some of the highest rent hikes in Colorado.
"We had a crisis here in Louisville, we lost a thousand homes, so in December of 2021, we weren't seeing a housing crisis or rent rates being crazy," said Jennifer Fox of Fox Property Management.
The largest wildfire in state history disrupted Boulder County's stable market, turning homeowners into renters.
Louisville City Council member Caleb Dickinson said families who lost their homes don't want to leave the area, leaving many to rent a home even if it means paying more.
"You lose a thousand properties and all these families are looking for a place to live but they also have this sense of place. They really want to stay and keep their kids in their elementary schools and soccer teams so they're willing to pay and take a financial hit to stay close to home for mental health reasons, so they're willing to spend more."
Fox and Dickinson own Fox Property Management, one of the largest housing providers in the state of Colorado.
In January 2022, the brother-sister management team saw rents in Boulder County increase by as much as 40%.
Homeowner policies have left most Marshall Fire victims underinsured, prolonging an already agonizing rebuilding process. And landlords are taking advantage.
"The federal government isn't coming in to save people because they can't afford to pay their rent," Dickinson said. "There's going to be a second wave of displaced people in our community because they can't afford to pay the new rent rates."
About a month ago, Fox and Dickinson decided to send a letter to the landlords of the properties they manage, hoping empathy will do what a lack of regulation can't.
The ask: don't exacerbate the crisis, be a part of the solution.
"The reason we sent the letter was to say let's not be a part of this, we don't have to. Just because we can get 20%, doesn't mean we should. Can we take care of our neighbors, can we take care of our community by just behaving as if it's a normal year."
Fox and Dickinson said the response from their landlords was overwhelmingly positive, and they did see actionable change.
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