Can Denver’s next mayor end no-payment evictions by 2025? Eighteen anti-poverty groups have a plan

So what do the candidates think?
6 min. read
Unhoused people are being forced from their home at the Quality Inn on Zuni Street at 16th in Denver in the next few weeks. On Friday, Sept. 2, 2022, as they prepared to hear from the Department of Housing Stability, some said they were not sure what would happen to them next.
Hart Van Denburg/CPR News

Evictions in Denver have spiked above pre-pandemic levels, and eighteen homelessness and anti-poverty groups say they have a plan for the next mayor to end all evictions for unpaid rent in two years.

The plan is called Zero by 25.

"As the next Mayor of Denver, you are inheriting a historic housing crisis defined by skyrocketing rents and a significant housing shortage, perpetuating record levels of evictions and first-time homelessness," the coalition wrote to both runoff candidates Mike Johnston and Kelly Brough. "Displacement and eviction are traumatic for families, drive intergenerational poverty, and cost the City tens of thousands of dollars in avoidable social services costs for each person removed from their home. It doesn't have to be this way. As Mayor, you can end evictions for unpaid rent. We have the tools and the knowledge to keep our neighbors safe in their homes."

The coalition points to the number of eviction court filings in Denver, which rose from 708 in March of 2019 to a five-year monthly record of 1,195 in March of 2023. The group also notes that court filings don't account for every household that has faced eviction in that time.

"Eviction filings are merely the tip of the iceberg and do not reflect the actual number of Denver families displaced each month," the group wrote. "Research suggests that for every eviction filing, two more households self-evict before a filing occurs, often due to landlord pressure. This means that for each of the 1,195 eviction filings filed in Denver County Court in March, two additional households opted to abandon their homes rather than face an eviction trial in front of a judge.

Both candidates have developed homelessness and housing plans that include building new housing, increasing the amount of transitional housing for people experiencing homelessness and increasing wrap-around services for unsheltered Denverites.

There are three main strategies the eighteen organizations hope the next mayor implements:

The groups include some of the biggest champions of income-restricted housing, social services and anti-poverty work in the city.

Some of the biggest players are the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, the Community Economic Defense Project, Servicios de la Raza and Habitat for Humanity Metro Denver.

Also in the mix: B-Konnected, Bayaud Enterprises, the Colorado Children's Campaign, Coloradans for the Common Good, the Community Investment Alliance, Enterprise Community Partners, The Globeville, Elyria-Swansea Coalition, Jewish Family Service, the Neighborhood Development Collaborative, No Eviction Without Representation (NEWR), Project Moxie, the Redress Movement, Towards Justice and Westwood Unidos.

"As Denver's next Mayor, you can tackle the housing crisis and keep our neighbors in their homes," the group wrote. "We believe that by fully investing in eviction prevention services and long-term housing stability, you can dramatically reduce first-time homelessness, prevent displacement, and save the City hundreds of millions of dollars.

"But, most importantly, full investment, careful implementation, and clear accountability standards for the displacement prevention and housing stability programs outlined above would help tens of thousands of Denver families avoid the intergenerational poverty and trauma associated with eviction," they added.

Here's how Brough responded to the demands.

"I agree with the Community Economic Defense Project that focusing on prevention is a key strategy in reducing homelessness, and preventing eviction is an essential component of that work," she wrote. "I support increasing support for timely rental assistance programs, in particular, and am also very interested in establishing a city-wide master lease program."

Brough's proposed master lease program would involve the city partnering with a nonprofit to take out a long-term lease on rental units and make them available to low-income renters and people who have been unhoused and may lack a solid credit history or other qualifications landlords are looking for in renters.

For Brough, master leasing is a win-win for both landlords and tenants, because landlords have guaranteed rent coming in from either the city or the nonprofit, and tenants have access to housing they might have not had before. The idea is that the city has access to currently available housing without building more. Though Brough has also said she would have the city develop new income-restricted housing above publicly owned parking lots.

"I welcome the groups signed on to this letter and others to join me in working to find funding and prioritize these important initiatives," Brough said.

Many of the funding streams used to address the housing crisis since 2020 have been tied to federal pandemic emergency funds that have not been renewed.

"The looming COVID recovery funding cliff presents real challenges and Denver voters rejected Ordinance 305 in November of 2022, which would have established an eviction defense fund paid for through a property tax on landlords," Brough said. "I see promise in public / private partnerships and look forward to working with this group to explore those options further once elected."

Here's how Johnston responded.

Johnston, who has pledged to end homelessness by the end of his first term, said he supports the goal of ending eviction for nonpayment by 2025.

"Mike is committed to investing heavily in both new affordable housing units and eviction defense funds," said his campaign spokesperson Jordan Fuja.

He didn't commit to the specifics of the plan set forth by the eighteen organizations. His strategy largely relies on building new housing and supporting anti-eviction efforts from money the city can access, if it gets its permitting process up to speed through Proposition 123, a statewide measure he helped lead.

"He's made a commitment to only put forth plans that have a fully accounted for budget, which is why his plan for affordable housing leverages Prop 123 dollars to build new units, invest in eviction support to prevent people from losing their housing, and help renters save money every month," Fuja said.

Like Brough, Johnston plans to work with the advocates behind the plan.

"He worked closely with the Community Economic Defense Project in 2020 to ensure that Denverites did not lose their housing during the COVID-19 pandemic, and as Mayor, he will continue that partnership to work toward the goal of Zero by Twenty-Five," Fuja said.

The election takes place June 6, and the next mayor takes office on July 17.

Check out Denverite's runoff voter guide for more information about both candidates.

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