Denver puts more money toward helping renters, owners stay in homes during pandemic

Denver’s overloaded rent-assistance program for lower-income households will receive a $4.3 million boost to keep up with surging demand for help during the coronavirus pandemic. The city also is setting aside $1 million for mortgage assistance.

More than 1,000 households are expected to receive help from the extra money approved by the Denver City Council in a vote Monday night, with most of it coming from the city’s share of federal coronavirus relief funds.

The city’s Temporary Rental and Utility Assistance Program, launched in 2017, helps residents keep up with rent and utility payments while they’re facing financial hardships.

To qualify, households can make up to 80% of the metro area’s median income, which ranges from $54,950 for a single person to $78,500 for a family of four.

The TRUA program, run by Brothers Redevelopment and the Northeast Denver Housing Center based on zip code, limits assistance to six months for rent and two utility payments within two years.

Each of those nonprofit groups has a $2 million contract covering 2019 and 2020, but the housing center has exhausted its allocation since claims began soaring a few months ago, said Melissa Thate, the city’s housing stability director. The two groups have covered as many of those claims as they can.

“These additional funds will just help us do more of that,” Thate said.

The city will send $2 million more to each provider to cover applicants’ pandemic-related hardships, including job losses, through the end of the year. The city is adding an extra $300,000 to the housing center’s regular contract to ensure it can continue covering non-pandemic-related claims, Thate said.

The city also is relaxing a rule that required recipients to pay at least 20% of their monthly rent while receiving help.

The mortgage assistance program will operate in a similar fashion for homeowners, with the same income limits and a maximum three months of coverage for mortgage payments. The Colorado Housing Assistance Corp. has posted initial information on its website for the program.

Interested residents can dial the city’s 311 call center to get connected with either program.

Denver’s local programs are among the most robust in the state, but housing advocates have called for more significant efforts to help people through the pandemic.

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