Denver, CO

Rental assistance still available in Denver

David Heitz

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By David Heitz / NewsBreak Denver

(Denver, Colo.) The City and County of Denver still has more than $2 million available in federal rental assistance, city officials said Wednesday.

The remarks were made during the Safety, Housing, Education and Homelessness Committee meeting. Melissa Thate from the Department of Housing Stability gave the council an update on the city’s rental assistance programs.

Help is available for people affected directly or indirectly by COVID. In the next round of funding, which is expected soon, tenants only have to experience a hardship during COVID to qualify.

Although 600 names fill a waiting list, most come off the list in two or of three weeks. Priority is given to those facing evictions and those with the lowest incomes. Urgent cases can be processed in 24 to 48 hours.

Denver tries to give the rental assistance to landlords first. When landlords aren’t responsive, payments can be made directly to the tenant. For applicants receiving SNAP or TANF benefits, their awards letter is the only paperwork needed to prove income.

More than 2,300 households helped

So far, the city has spent $18.8 million of almost $22 million received to date. More than 2,300 households have been helped at rate of 265 households per month, according to Thate.

Denver targeted vulnerable residents via social media. Councilmember Amanda Sawyer wanted to make sure the Department of Housing Stability targeted southeast Denver. Thate said they did.

Councilmember Kevin Flynn did some quick math during Thursday’s meeting. He said it appears the average disbursement is $10,500 per household. He wondered why it’s so high.

Thate said the numbers Flynn used also contain overhead costs, so the actual amount of assistance distributed per household is lower. Still, she said, the numbers are high because people can apply for to 15 months of assistance, including past due rent, future rent, and deposits for new units.

How to apply for assistance

In the next round of funding coming from the federal government, renters can apply for up to 18 months of rental assistance. Flynn asked Thate to report back with a bell curve that shows how many people receiving assistance are in arrears and for how many months.

City councilmember Robin Kniech, who chairs the committee, said people who have been on rental assistance for 15 months have “a structural issue,” adding, “The cliff is going to come, and they are going to fall off of it.”

To apply for rental assistance, call 311 and choose option 6.

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I've been in the news business 35 years, spending much of my career in editing roles at local newspapers in Los Angeles, Detroit, and the Quad-Cities of Illinois and Iowa. Upon moving to Denver in 2018, I began experiencing severe mental illness due to several traumatic experiences. I became homeless on the street for about a year before spending time in the state mental hospital. I am living proof that people can rebound from mental illness with proper treatment, even after experiencing homelessness. I consider myself a lucky guy to live in a great place like Denver. I hope my writing reflects the passion I have for living here.

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