Sep 14, 2017

Jack Regenbogen previously served as Senior Attorney at Colorado Center on Law and Policy.

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Too many Denverites face eviction alone

by | Sep 14, 2017

Amid Colorado’s growing affordable-housing crisis, there are roughly 850 evictions filed with courts every week across the state. According to one news report, there were at least 44,000 evictions filed in Colorado in 2016. Evictions can lead to unnecessary displacement, increased financial insecurity and even transitional or long-term homelessness.

Being evicted is often a cause of poverty that could often be avoided if renters or homeowners get appropriate legal help. Unfortunately, tenants in eviction cases rarely get representation from an attorney and as a result lose their residences. In most cases, tenants who can’t afford an attorney have nowhere to turn and will likely be forced to move out of their homes.

Earlier this week, the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless and CCLP released “Facing Eviction Alone,” a study that reviewed 860 eviction cases initiated by the Denver Housing Authority as well as 1,060 cases brought by seven private housing managers.

Among our findings:

* Tenants are almost never represented by legal counsel in eviction cases. While landlords had legal representation in every eviction case reviewed, tenants were represented by in attorney in only about 2 percent of the cases reviewed – putting tenants in a distinct disadvantage.

* Unrepresented tenants often lost possession of their homes. Nearly half of the cases initiated by the Denver Housing Authority and almost 70 percent of the cases initiated by private housing property managers resulted in evictions.

* Attorney assistance significantly improves tenants’ chances of remaining in their homes. The few renters that retained legal counsel usually prevailed in eviction proceedings. The results suggest that having the assistance of a lawyer significantly improves tenants’ prospects of staying in their homes.

* Many evictions were filed due to a dispute over a few dollars of unpaid rent. The authors of the study found one eviction notice filed over an alleged $4 of unpaid rent. The median amount in dispute was slightly higher than $200 in cases filed by DHA.

* Evictions disproportionately affect neighborhoods with more people of color and areas of rapid growth and gentrification. A map in the study illustrates that the areas with the highest concentration of evictions happened to be highest in communities of color from 2014 to 2016. Displacing these households has a devastating effect on families, children and the communities themselves.

Among the recommendations outlined in the study:

* Fund eviction defense. New York City recently enacted a law that guarantees legal representation to any low-income resident facing eviction. Other cities that fund eviction defense include San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Boston and Los Angeles. Perhaps not coincidentally, these are also cities where rentals are high and affordable housing is scarce.

* Revise the due-process procedures for tenants facing evictions. Eviction procedures can be improved to make the process fairer for those who have low levels of literacy or English-language proficiency or for those facing domestic-abuse or mental-health issues.

* Expand the availability of emergency rental assistance. A number of barriers have prevented families from accessing rent assistance, administered by Denver Human Services. Given that many tenants are evicted for relatively small amounts of unpaid rent, expanding the availability of rent assistance would be an effective way to help tenants remain in their homes.

We’re proud of this study and hope it will serve as a catalyst for discussion on this critical issue facing too many Coloradans.

– By Jack Regenbogen

Recent articles


To maintain health and well-being, people of all ages need access to quality health care that improves outcomes and reduces costs for the community. Health First Colorado, the state's Medicaid program, is public health insurance for low-income Coloradans who qualify. The program is funded jointly by a federal-state partnership and is administered by the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy & Financing.

Benefits of the program include behavioral health, dental services, emergency care, family planning services, hospitalization, laboratory services, maternity care, newborn care, outpatient care, prescription drugs, preventive and wellness services, primary care and rehabilitative services.

In tandem with the Affordable Care Act, Colorado expanded Medicaid eligibility in 2013 - providing hundreds of thousands of adults with incomes less than 133% FPL with health insurance for the first time increasing the health and economic well-being of these Coloradans. Most of the money for newly eligible Medicaid clients has been covered by the federal government, which will gradually decrease its contribution to 90% by 2020.

Other populations eligible for Medicaid include children, who qualify with income up to 142% FPL, pregnant women with household income under 195% FPL, and adults with dependent children with household income under 68% FPL.

Some analyses indicate that Colorado's investment in Medicaid will pay off in the long run by reducing spending on programs for the uninsured.


Hunger, though often invisible, affects everyone. It impacts people's physical, mental and emotional health and can be a culprit of obesity, depression, acute and chronic illnesses and other preventable medical conditions. Hunger also hinders education and productivity, not only stunting a child's overall well-being and academic achievement, but consuming an adult's ability to be a focused, industrious member of society. Even those who have never worried about having enough food experience the ripple effects of hunger, which seeps into our communities and erodes our state's economy.

Community resources like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps, exist to ensure that families and individuals can purchase groceries, with the average benefit being about $1.40 per meal, per person.

Funding for SNAP comes from the USDA, but the administrative costs are split between local, state, and federal governments. Yet, the lack of investment in a strong, effective SNAP program impedes Colorado's progress in becoming the healthiest state in the nation and providing a better, brighter future for all. Indeed, Colorado ranks 44th in the nation for access to SNAP and lost out on more than $261 million in grocery sales due to a large access gap in SNAP enrollment.

See the Food Assistance (SNAP) Benefit Calculator to get an estimate of your eligibility for food benefits.


Every child deserves the nutritional resources needed to get a healthy start on life both inside and outside the mother's womb. In particular, good nutrition and health care is critical for establishing a strong foundation that could affect a child's future physical and mental health, academic achievement and economic productivity. Likewise, the inability to access good nutrition and health care endangers the very integrity of that foundation.

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) provides federal grants to states for supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition information for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding postpartum women and to infants and children up to age five who are found to be at nutritional risk.

Research has shown that WIC has played an important role in improving birth outcomes and containing health care costs, resulting in longer pregnancies, fewer infant deaths, a greater likelihood of receiving prenatal care, improved infant-feeding practices, and immunization rates

Financial Security:
Colorado Works

In building a foundation for self-sufficiency, some Colorado families need some extra tools to ensure they can weather challenging financial circumstances and obtain basic resources to help them and their communities reach their potential.

Colorado Works is Colorado's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program and provides public assistance to families in need. The Colorado Works program is designed to assist participants in becoming self-sufficient by strengthening the economic and social stability of families. The program provides monthly cash assistance and support services to eligible Colorado families.

The program is primarily funded by a federal block grant to the state. Counties also contribute about 20% of the cost.


Child care is a must for working families. Along with ensuring that parents can work or obtain job skills training to improve their families' economic security, studies show that quality child care improves children's academic performance, career development and health outcomes.

Yet despite these proven benefits, low-income families often struggle with the cost of child care. Colorado ranks among the top 10 most expensive states in the country for center-based child care. For families with an infant, full-time enrollment at a child care center cost an average of $15,140 a year-or about three-quarters of the total income of a family of three living at the Federal Poverty Level (FPL).

The Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP) provides child care assistance to parents who are working, searching for employment or participating in training, and parents who are enrolled in the Colorado Works Program and need child care services to support their efforts toward self-sufficiency. Most of the money for CCCAP comes from the federal Child Care and Development Fund. Each county can set their own income eligibility limit as long as it is at or above 165% of the federal poverty level and does not exceed 85% of area median income.

Unfortunately, while the need is growing, only an estimated one-quarter of all eligible children in the state are served by CCCAP. Low reimbursement rates have also resulted in fewer providers willing to accept CCCAP subsidies.