Originally published in Sentinel Colorado on June 3, 2020
EDITOR: From where I stand, the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to significantly exacerbate housing instability and homelessness throughout our state and nationally. Congress must take bold action by including emergency rental assistance in the next coronavirus-response package.
Colorado was already in a housing crisis before the coronavirus outbreak with an estimated 280 thousand households paying at least 50 percent of their income towards housing in addition to a shortage of more than 130 thousand affordable housing units for households with the lowest incomes. I am even more concerned for the at least 10 thousand Coloradans were experiencing homelessness.
High unemployment is creating the potential for nearly 500 thousand evictions in Colorado, and a wave of foreclosures. Homelessness may grow 40 to 50 percent nationally this year according to modeling by Columbia University.
For Coloradans who cannot “shelter in place”, the connection between housing and health is clear. People experiencing homelessness who are infected with coronavirus are twice as likely to be hospitalized and at least two times as likely to die compared to the general population.
The National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) estimates that almost $100 billion is needed nationally, with almost $2.4 billion for Colorado, to provide emergency rental assistance. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Representatives Maxine Waters (D-CA) and Denny Heck (D-WA), along with more than 170 cosponsors, recently introduced the “Emergency Rental Assistance and Rental Market Stabilization Act” to provide this funding need. Congress must support this important bill and ensure everyone is stably housed. Lives are at risk.