EDGEWATER, Colo. — Tens of millions of dollars in rental assistance are available in Colorado, and studies show many people don’t know about the state program helping people catch up with rent.
The pandemic shook the housing industry, and to prevent evictions the state and federal government poured hundreds of millions of dollars into the Colorado Emergency Rental Assistance Program, which provides qualified applicants with up to 15 months of free rent.
The Colorado Department of Local Affairs oversees the program that has distributed $151 million in rental assistance since January.
There is approximately $169 million still available in rental assistance, and it must be spent by September 2022. It’s money that doesn’t have to be paid back by struggling residents who qualify.
Bill Bivens, property manager and owner of Terra Village Apartments in Edgewater, owns 402 rental units. He said at one point, more than 120 tenants were behind on rent. He held ERAP meetings and helped raise awareness about the program to help his residents apply.
In 2021, Bivens recovered $415,000 in overdue rent from tenants who applied for the program and another $43,000 has been approved, according to the state.
Alison George, the director of housing with the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, said a recent study found that many people eligible for the funds don’t know the funds exist.
The initial process to apply for rental assistance was cumbersome, but George said it has since been streamlined. She said the website is more intuitive and user-friendly and the application process is quicker.
“My hope is that more people can access these funds and we can provide the emergency assistance that they need,” George said.
The two-part application requires the tenant and landlord to work together. Bivens admits it can be a confusing process for tenants. He said it’s why his team helped residents fill out the paperwork.
When the program first rolled out, Bivens became frustrated with the slow payout. While it’s not perfect, he said the program has improved. The biggest hurdle he’s now facing is getting people who are months behind on rent to respond to his calls, letters and notifications to find out if they qualify for ERAP.
“The people that aren’t applying, that’s the biggest problem that we have,” Bivens said.
He recently evicted several people and estimates a loss of about $100,000 in unpaid rent.
“If they haven’t applied, I don’t get anything,” Bivens said.
Several documents are required to apply for the program. To learn more, click here.