Denver recently rolled out a new program to aid those facing a “housing crisis.”
Late last week, Denver City Council members took an unconventional extra step in launching an effort to provide legal aid to Denverites facing eviction. Ten council members pooled money totaling $123,600 in donations from office budgets and personal contributions to help get an eviction legal defense program off the ground.
“The Housing Crisis is affecting people lives daily,” Denver City Council President Albus Brooks said in a post of Facebook. “Denver City Council led by members Robin Kniech and Paul Kashmann (supported by 8 others) have initiated an Eviction Assistance pilot program. We have raised over $100K to help over 80 individuals. We hope to evaluate and expand the program in the future.”
Officials say the program will be coordinated by Colorado Legal Services, which has decades of experience in eviction defense and will make use of volunteer lawyers and make other referrals. The program is expected to start in March or April.
During an office budget reconciliation process — where officials decide how to allocate unspent money and plan for 2018 — the council members decided upon the innovative funding. As the council members explain in a statement, “City Council rules permit donations to non-profit organizations for public purposes — in this case preventing displacement and homelessness, which costs the city much more in public assistance than keeping a family housed.”
Underscoring the need for the defense program, the council members pointed to research by the Colorado Center on Law and Policy and the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless that found a significant gap between the level of legal representation afforded tenants and that which is available to landlords. While tenants are represented by an attorney in only 1 to 3 percent of the cases involving major landlords, landlords are represented in virtually 100 percent of those same cases.