Colorado realtors foundation funds rent and mortgage assistance in response to the pandemic

A total of $125,000 is going to Brothers Redevelopment, the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless and Habitat for Humanity of Colorado.
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Habitat for Humanity’s Sheridan Square neighborhood, June 26, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

The philanthropic arm of the Colorado Association of Realtors has dipped into its disaster relief fund to grant a total of $125,000 to help three Colorado nonprofit organizations keep people across the state housed during the economic slowdown caused by the novel coronavirus.

Brothers Redevelopment is getting $25,000, the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless $50,000, and Habitat for Humanity of Colorado $50,000 from the Colorado Association of Realtors Foundation to be used for rent and mortgage assistance.

Chris Djorup, who chairs the foundation's board and is a metro Denver residential realtor, said Tuesday that once the decision was made to use disaster relief funds, his organization put out a call for applications and made the grants in a few weeks.

"We just knew that there were people needing assistance, and we wanted to get this done in a timely manner," he said. "The need is just great across the state."

Karen Kallenberg, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Colorado, said that based on communications from homeowners who have received loans from her nonprofit,  she expected that some 30 percent will not be able to pay their mortgage this month and in future months.

"This is consistent across the state as well as in the metro Denver area," Kallenberg said in an email. "If economic conditions persist for the long term, we anticipate the need increasing."

Habitat uses mortgage payments it receives to build more homes that can be sold below market rates. Across the state, Kallenberg said, Habitat for Humanity affiliates receive a total of more than $960,000 each month in mortgage payments from more than 1,600 mortgages.

Kallenberg said the $50,000 that Habitat received from the realtors' foundation had gone into an emergency mortgage assistance fund that Habitat started in response to the coronavirus. She said Habitat has so far raised $200,000 for its fund and hopes to reach "$500,000 as a starting point to be used for mortgage assistance, to help Habitat families across the state who have lost income during this time."

The Colorado Coalition for the Homeless tries to help residents of its own apartment complexes and those it has helped find housing elsewhere with rent and utility assistance when needed.

But Cathy Alderman, the coalition's vice president of communications and public policy, said the effort "is not always consistently funded. And I will say, the funds go quickly."

She said the $50,000 from the realtors group might be spent in three or four months. The coalition was in search of more funding help in this area amid concern about the impact of the coronavirus on housing stability, Alderman said, noting the governor has declared a moratorium on evictions, but that that does not mean people are exempt from paying rent.

Brothers Redevelopment has received state coronavirus relief funds to distribute to households in need of rent or mortgage assistance who earn no more than half their area's median income. Djorup said the realtors' foundation grant will allow Brothers to help households earning between 50 percent and 80 percent of AMI.

Djorup said the realtors' foundation planned two more grant-giving rounds this year for a total of at least $225,000 more.

Even before the coronavirus struck, Djorup said his foundation had decided to more than double the $60,000 it gave last year to nonprofits working in such areas as providing affordable housing and ending homelessness. June 1 is the deadline for the foundation's normal grant cycle, with $125,000 to be distributed this year. In reaction to the pandemic, a second round of grants of at least $100,000 is planned. The application period for the second round opens July 13 and nonprofits have until Aug. 31 to apply. Application information can be found on the foundation's website.

Djorup said the $225,000 to be distributed in the two grant cycles may not necessarily go to rent and mortgage assistance programs.

Over the last 25 years, the realtor industry group's foundation has awarded more than $7.8 million to Colorado nonprofits working in such areas as providing affordable housing and addressing homelessness. The foundation's disaster relief fund was created in response to fires and floods in Colorado in 2013 and 2014.

The foundation is financed in part by interest from escrow accounts into which brokers and title companies place clients' earnest money.

Also Tuesday, the city of Denver announced it was allocating $4 million in federal funds for rent and utility assistance, $1 million for mortgage assistance and $1.5 million for rehousing strategies for people affected by COVID-19. The funds were part of the first $20 million to be spent out of more than $126 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) dollars the city has received.

In addition, U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner announced Tuesday that the Denver Housing Authority was receiving more than $287,000 in U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development COVID-19 response funding.

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