Aurora invests in veteran housing to fight homelessness

Aurora joined more than 20 Denver metro municipalities in an effort to combat regional homelessness last month after the city contributed $10,000 to a new fund intended to incentivize landlords to accept tenants with housing vouchers.

AURORA | Aurora joined more than 20 Denver metro municipalities in an effort to combat regional homelessness last month after the city contributed $10,000 to a new fund intended to incentivize landlords to accept tenants with housing vouchers.

A quartet of regional entities and the nearly two dozen participating cities have raised more than $55,000 for the landlord recruitment fund following its launch earlier this summer.

This home at 1394 Chester St. Is one of 200 pledged to the Landlord Recruitment Campaign from Atlas Real Estate Group on Tuesday Sept. 15, 2015. Photo by Gabriel Christus/Aurora Sentinel
This home at 1394 Chester St. Is one of 200 pledged to the Landlord Recruitment Campaign from Atlas Real Estate Group on Tuesday Sept. 15, 2015. Photo by Gabriel Christus/Aurora Sentinel

The Metro Mayor’s Caucus, Brothers Redevelopment, the Colorado Department of Local Affairs and the Metro Denver Homeless Initiative all coordinated in developing the program, which covers some of the possible costs that can be incurred when lodging people using the subsidized vouchers. Participating landlords are eligible for up to $1,600 to cover any damages caused by program tenants as well as money lost on rent between occupancies.

“Everyone needs a safe place to call home and that is why the Metro Mayors Caucus is supporting the Landlord Recruitment Campaign,” Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan, who chairs the Homeless and Hunger Committee for the 41-member group, said. “The effort provides an essential connection between people experiencing homelessness, landlords who have units available (to) rent and resources to make the connection sustainable.”

Aurora was one of the first cities to contribute to the fund, according to Shannon Peer, director of housing counseling at Brothers Redevelopment.

“Mayor Hogan and the city of Aurora were definitely catalysts in getting the ball rolling,” he said.

To date, about 55 landlords have agreed to participate in the program, according to Peer.

He said that the Denver area’s shriveled housing supply has been the biggest hurdle in placing voucher holders into homes. Voucher values are based on users’ incomes and ability to pay and are calculated by local housing providers and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The Metro Mayor’s Caucus, Brothers Redevelopment, the Colorado Department of Local Affairs and the Metro Denver Homeless Initiative all coordinated in developing the program, which covers some of the possible costs that can be incurred when lodging people using the subsidized vouchers. Participating landlords are eligible for up to $1,600 to cover any damages caused by program tenants as well as money lost on rent between occupancies.

“Some landlords have had a bad experience with housing vouchers and they think the rest of voucher users will be the same,” Peer said. “We thought that stigma would be the hardest thing to overcome, but it’s really not so bad compared to rent prices and the competition in the market.”

The average rent for an apartment in metro Denver stood at an eye-popping $1,265 in the second quarter of this year, which is up about $150 from the same time last year, according to data collected by the Apartment Association of Metro Denver. At the same time, the regional vacancy rate was a dismal 4.5 percent.

“As rental costs increase, it is becoming too difficult for those in greatest need of housing to find good places to rent,” Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said in a statement. “The city is pleased to have a partner like Brothers Redevelopment and the Colorado Housing Connects referral hotline, which helps low income residents find available rentals and act quickly to secure these affordable housing options.”

Peer said that, to date, the program has placed seven people in homes and that organizers have been offered 35 apartments. He clarified that “offered” means a landlord may have agreed to participate in the program, but agreed to terms with another tenant before Peer and his colleagues were able to coordinate with a potential candidate. He said that the turn-around for most apartments is about one day.

Recruiting the landlords has been a largely grassroots effort, according to Peer, who said that Brothers has combed public records in county assessors offices, property managers associations and Craigslist.com to find potential participants.

“When we call on Craigslist, it’s not to place somebody in the unit they’re advertising, but maybe the next time that person has a unit become available,” he said. “At that first point in time the competition is too deep, so we’re just attempting to get their information and then check-in with them every once in a while.”

There were 6,130 people experiencing homelessness in metro Denver in January of this year, according to a point-in-time survey conducted by the Metro Denver Homeless Initiative, one of the entities participating in the recruitment effort. Of that total, about 600 of those experiencing homelessness were veterans.

Property owners interested in participating in the campaign can get more information by calling Colorado Housing Connects at 1-844-926-6632 or by visiting www.ColoradoHousingConnects.org.

  • Joe Hardhat

    The $1,600 max is a drop in the bucket compared with the risk, at least for the more decent rentals. However, the slum lords of dilapidated rentals will be the first of sign up and will claim the $1,600 as often as possible for “damages”.

    • Aurora Bartlett

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    • I choose not to denigrate people for however they can help our veterans. I support this effort in socialism. We owe it to our homeless vets.