In light of the coronavirus pandemic, Denver City Council on Monday night will consider a bill that would provide three months of rent relief in exchange for a three-month lease extension for business owners currently renting space in city-owned buildings.
The bill, requested by the Department of Finance, would apply to 10 tenants, including a bar at the National Western Center, a coffee shop in the Wellington E. Webb Municipal Office Building and a pizzeria at the Denver Convention Center.
If all lessees take advantage of the three-month relief period, about $137,000 in rent would be deferred, according to city documents.
Denver City Council read on April 13 a proclamation calling on Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, along with Colorado’s congressional delegation, to cancel rent and mortgage payments for residents who currently cannot pay. The proclamation was not a binding law, but rather a symbolic gesture intended to convey that renters need relief.
“This is not a policy, it’s a conversation starter,” Councilwoman At Large Robin Kniech, who helped draft the document, said before the council unanimously voted in favor of passing the proclamation.
The proclamation called on Polis to “use the full legal extent of his emergency powers” to ensure that “no Coloradan or small business who is unable to pay through no fault of their own should be required to pay rent during this health emergency, nor should they accumulate debt or interest for unpaid rent.”
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock issued a temporary order to halt evictions amid the pandemic, but he says his hands are legally tied from doing much else.
According to the Department of Finance, several city tenants have reached out seeking relief due to the financial impacts of the virus.
Citing stay-at-home orders, which will remain in place in Denver through May 8, the city’s finance department said it is requesting the bill because it recognizes it is “not necessarily feasible to pay rent during this time,” considering the "viability of tenants’ businesses depends upon building occupancy."
At least 8,000 businesses in Denver have sought financial aid from the city, according to the latest COVID-19 situation report. More than 2,200 businesses have applied for the city’s $4 million Small Business Emergency Relief grant.
Editor's note: This article initially stated that Gov. Jared Polis had issued a temporary order to halt evictions, but his eviction order only requires that agencies work with departments to explore ways to suspend evictions.