Rent has never been higher in Denver. That’s alongside soaring overall inflation, the likes of which our state and country haven’t seen in decades.
So, the last thing anyone needs is a proposal on Denver’s local ballot this November that will drive rent even higher — ironically, in the name of helping renters.
What’s more, the ballot measure would fund a service — legal representation to tenants facing eviction — that Denver City Hall already offers to those of limited means. And the proposal faces voters at a time when the number of evictions actually has been in decline.
All of which provides sound justification for voting NO to the costly, redundant and pointless Initiated Ordinance 305.
It’s a $12 million-a-year tax increase that will add even more to the price of renting in Denver by placing a $75 annual excise tax on nearly every rental apartment, townhome, mobile home and house in the city. The tax will increase every year because the ballot measure indexes it to inflation. It of course will be factored into the rent for every tenant, just like any other cost of doing business that property owners must account for.
And for all its expense and bother, it attempts to address a problem that simply doesn’t exist.
For renters who are facing eviction and struggling financially in general, as is usually the case in evictions, the city’s got you covered right now. Denver’s Department of Housing Stability provides support and funding for legal representation to Denver residents facing eviction if they earn 80% of our area’s median income or less.
And as the latest available data makes clear, there simply is no “eviction crisis” in Denver. Evictions were down 37.5% in the first half of 2022 from the same period in 2019, the year before the pandemic. That’s to the credit of tenants, who by and large are doing their best to make the rent, as well as to landlords who are respecting their leases.
Perhaps it’s the lack of any evident demand or need for 305 that explains why its drafters also decided to squander some of the tax’s toll on adding to the city’s bureaucracy. The measure would siphon off some of its tax revenue for “a tenant's legal services and assistance coordinator to administer the program.” It also would, “Create a tenants' committee comprised of seven members paid a $1,000 per year stipend.”
Yet, this bad idea didn’t come from City Hall — for a change — and in fact landed on the ballot without any input from the Denver City Council, the mayor’s office or the extensive city staff engaged in housing issues. Nor were the many advocacy and civic groups that address housing involved.
The “No Eviction Without Representation” campaign’s website offers few clues about the people or funding pushing it other than to note it is endorsed by the Democratic Socialists of America and the American Civil Liberties Union.
At least, Denver’s renters will know whom to thank if 305 passes, and their rent goes up.
No wonder it has been dubbed “the eviction tax.” It’ll come out of the pockets of the very people it’s supposed to help.
Denver Gazette Editorial Board