Several Denver residents living in apartment buildings that accept housing vouchers complained to the City Council Monday about conditions where they live.
Ana Gloom of Housekeys Action Network Denver told the council several buildings that accept vouchers are infested with mice, bed bugs and roaches. She said reports of black mold are pervasive. Furthermore, she said disabled people are being given apartments that are not ADA compliant.
Nic Walter said he works for the largest homeless housing organization in the state, and one of the largest in the country. He said he has disabled clients who are not in wheelchair-adapted apartments. He told the story of one tenant who parks his wheelchair in a corner in the bathroom and crawls to the toilet or bathtub. Cathy Alderman, spokesperson for Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, said the non-profit is looking into the claim.
Council approves rental assistance
Council member Stacie Gilmore said later in the meeting that she heard the complaints of the voucher holders loud and clear. She pointed out that the city already has a rental inspection program so infestations of rodents and insects and extended interruptions of heat and water shouldn’t be happening. But she said the council also must make sure people remain housed, and for that reason urged her colleagues to vote to fully fund rental assistance. She said it has “been inspiring working with this new council” and “finding what we know must be done in our city to give every person that is renting a way to stay in their home.”
The council voted 9-4 to expand rental assistance by $14.7 million. The budget amendment came from council members Sarah Parady, Shontel Lewis, Paul Kashman and Stacie Gilmore. The amendment received enough votes to overturn a veto by the mayor. Council members Kevin Flynn, Amanda Sawyer, Diana Romero-Campbell and Darrell Watson voted no.
Apartment communities shamed
People who sat in the audience held up signs saying, “Shame on you!” and listing the names of apartment communities underneath. Listed communities included Alvista Trailside, Alton Green Apartments, Auraria Student Lofts, Warren Residences, and others.
V. Reeves said the City Council needs to create a whistleblower hotline for complaints about landlords. She said the Denver Housing Authority does not communicate well with residents and instead talks to case managers and property managers.
Mold, unlawful entrances
Teri Washington said tenants often are asked to sign paperwork that they don’t understand. She said her landlord entered her unit without her permission, something she said happens all the time. Washington said she felt “violated and disrespected. I have no privacy.”
She said such infringements seem to happen to Black tenants most often. “I think it’s a racial situation.” She said she always pays her rent on time and never disrespects anyone.
Reeves also spoke for a man who could not attend the meeting due to illness. Reeves said he has an inflamed throat and is dealing with cold air rushing through a broken window. She said the man has had many medical procedures and also has “severe mobility issues.” He complains of “slumlordness,” Reeves said, and is dealing with a mold infestation among other problems.