WASHINGTON, D.C. – Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet on Wednesday put forward a series of proposals to address the eviction crisis afflicting Colorado and the country. His plan is designed to: 1) better understand the contours and causes of the eviction crisis; 2) reduce preventable evictions; and 3) limit the human and taxpayer consequences of eviction when it occurs.
“Today in the United States, an unexpected illness, a car accident, or a family emergency can end with a family being evicted from their home and falling into a cycle of poverty that lasts for years,” said Bennet. “The costs are enormous for those evicted, but they are also detrimental for society. As a former school superintendent, I saw kids falling asleep in class because they didn’t have a stable place to stay the night before. And I’ve heard from many hard-working Coloradans about how one misstep led to their lives falling apart. We need to turn national attention to this crisis and put in place policies that both prevent evictions and limit the damage when they occur.”
Over the last year, Bennet and his team have consulted with Colorado leaders, legal representatives, and national experts about the growing problem of affordable housing and eviction. In the coming weeks, Bennet will introduce legislation to implement his plan to curb evictions. In the months that follow, he will introduce additional, comprehensive housing affordability legislation to address the supply and demand issues that are driving the lack of affordable housing for Americans at all income levels.
“Colorado is engulfed in an eviction crisis,” said Jack Regenbogen, Attorney and Policy Advocate at Colorado Center on Law and Policy. “There are roughly 45,000 evictions filed in Colorado each year, and most tenants facing an eviction are left to navigate the complex legal system by themselves, without the assistance of an attorney. These evictions frequently destabilize families, disrupt communities, and uproot children from their schools. Colorado Center on Law and Policy is grateful to see Senator Michael Bennet take the lead on the federal level in offering solutions to this major problem, such as proposing increased funding for the Legal Services Corporation.”
Since 1970, the national median rent has increased by 70% in real terms. In 2016, 2.3 million eviction filings were made in courthouses across the United States—a rate of four every minute. That same year, one in 50 renters was evicted from his or her home. This affordable housing crisis has crippled families’ security and placed enormous costs on the nation’s health care system, courts, schools, and local governments.
In Colorado, five cities rank in the nation’s 100 “Top Evicting Areas” by eviction rate (i.e. the number of evictions per 100 renters): Aurora (ranked #33, with a 5.52% eviction rate), Thornton (#48, 4.64%), Colorado Springs (#64, 4.19%), Westminster (#93, 3.16%), and Lakewood (#94, 3.15%). In Denver eviction cases, 90% of landlords are represented by lawyers, compared to just 2% of tenants—consistent with nationwide trends.
Last week, Bennet published an op-ed outlining significant steps Congress can take to prevent evictions and limit damage when they occur.
Improve Data and Analysis on Evictions
· Create a national database to standardize data and track evictions, in order to better inform policy decisions.
· Allocate $5 million to a comprehensive study to track evictions, analyze landlord-tenant law, and assess varying factors in urban, suburban, and rural areas.
Reduce Preventable Evictions and Mitigate Eviction’s
Co-invest in state and local government programs:
· Encourage state and local governments to expand the use of community courts, which help both tenants and landlords avoid the high cost of eviction through a mediation-based process with social service representatives present.
· Establish an Emergency Assistance Innovation Fund to provide loans and financial counseling services to eviction-vulnerable tenants.
Support increased legal representation for tenants:
· Increase funding for the Legal Services Corporation, a public-private partnership that provides legal services to low-income Americans.
· Expand eviction clinics at law schools nationwide by creating a competitive grant program.
· Develop a “Civil Defender” pilot program for law students to work with an eviction-focused legal services organization, thereby reducing their law school debt and earning practical experience.