Colorado advocates call for better eviction tracking, transparency

Evictions in Colorado plummeted by 57% in the first year of the pandemic thanks in large part to government interventions, according to a new analysis conducted by a nonprofit group that’s now asking state leaders to publish more eviction data to better understand housing instability here.

The report by Enterprise Community Partners, a housing nonprofit, and the Colorado Futures Center comes as significant pandemic-era programs come to an end and evictions in the state climb back to their pre-2020 levels. The analysis, experts and advocates said, points not only to the role aid played in stabilizing renters but also to the importance of a consistent and transparent accounting of evictions in Colorado. They argue that the data — beyond basic figures of how many evictions are filed each month — can better detail what causes displacement, why and how it can be addressed.

The data used in the report, which covers from mid-2017 to mid-2021, was available thanks to a specific state legislative request and is well beyond what’s typically publicly available via the state’s eviction dashboard.

“I think it’s really a shame that this is the first time that this many years of this detail of data on eviction filings has been available,” said Kinsey Hasstedt, the state and local policy director for Enterprise. “I really hope that moving forward, policymakers will see the benefit of having this information – which already exists.”

Hasstedt pointed to the report’s findings on the importance of legal representation as an underreported data point. Between 2017 and mid-2021, Coloradans facing eviction had legal counsel in only 1.3% of cases, compared to 77% for landlords. Those tenants that did have legal help fared significantly better than those who didn’t, according to the report. That included reaching settlements with landlords to have the tenant leave without a formal eviction following them as they seek new housing.

That impacts a significant swath of the state: In the years prior to the pandemic, Colorado averaged between 3,000 and 4,500 eviction filings every month, according to data published by the state and in the report.

In November, Denver voters rejected a ballot measure that would’ve taxed landlords to provide free legal aid to residents facing eviction proceedings.

“The report illuminates the systemic fractures within our American and Colorado housing status quo, and we owe it to one another to resist the belief that this is the best we can do,” said Peter LiFari, the CEO of Maiker Housing Partners in Adams County. “Not all evictions are alike, yet the vast majority of evictions in Colorado and in this country are financially based.”

The pandemic ushered in a series of state and federal housing interventions, including eviction moratoriums, hundreds of millions in rental aid and an executive order giving tenants more time to make rent. High-eviction counties, like Adams and Arapahoe, had averaged more than 100 evictions per 1,000 households prior to the pandemic, according to the report. After those programs were implemented, both counties fell to 46 evictions per 1,000 households.

Much of that aid is ending. The state and the city of Denver have both stopped accepting new applications for rental assistance as the federal money funding the programs run dry. That’s prompted advocates and activists to call for the state to step in and help, as eviction filings in the state hit pre-pandemic levels of 3,500 per month. State housing officials have previously told the Post that they are hoping to provide some money to replace federal rental aid but that the funds may only pay in a year what the expiring programs provided in a single month.

Beyond the benefit of direct financial aid, LiFari and Hasstedt said, the report shows the need for the state to provide more data to show the inner workings of evictions. That could theoretically be done by the state’s Judicial Department (a spokesman for the agency said in November that it looked forward to working with the legislator and community partners on the issue), but would likely require some nudging from the legislature.

Improved transparency around evictions will be particularly vital, LiFari said, in the wake of expiring housing aid, so policymakers and advocates can understand its impact and what parts of the state are falling behind.

“Having all of that more detail and robust data is really enlightening,” Hasstedt said, “and shows that we’re able to demonstrate the impact that pandemic-related interventions had on helping to reduce evictions and to stabilize the system.”

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