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Moving on to the eviction discussion: What is Boulder going to do about it? (Part 1) and What is council going to do with the NEWR ballot measure? (Part 2)
Kurt Firnhaber and Kristin Hyser taking this one, from Boulder HHS. And Carin Armstrong from the city's mediation services.
We don't fully understand our housing future, Hyser says. Lots of resources have "gone a long way" to stabilize people, but "the uncertain future is requiring us to prepare for the unknown."
Historically, unemployment and rent have NOT been drivers in eviction filings.

Record high for CO eviction filings: 2007
Unemployment rate at that time: 3.6%
"There doesn't seem to be a connection between rent increases and eviction filings," Hyser says (she's got data)

They've kinda gone up and down.
Down since 2008 (a bunch) but back up slightly in 2017 and 2018

Again, statewide.
Boulder County eviction filings in court:
2015: 1,035
2016: 1,048
2017: 1,118
2018: 1,238
2019: 1,223
2020 (thru July): 282
So as you can see: Steady increase since 2015 locally. (Well, slightly down in 2019 from 2018, following state trends.)
Boulder is going to receive $4.8M to reimburse COVID relief costs, Hyser says.
Hyser going over eviction moratoriums, which have all expired. Late fees still banned, but only until Aug. 11.
A forbearance on mortgages, however, is in place until March 2021
Extra unemployment insurance for ppl: Also expired
650 calls to the housing helpline, which launched April 12. It's county-wide.

109 of the calls that resulted in housing assistance were in Boulder
37% of all calls that led to rental assistance, countywide, lived in mobile homes
Within BHP specifically, March to June:
Rent Forgiveness: 138 households, $140,943
Rental Assistance (from outside BHP): 514 households, $458,813
Unpaid rent: $131,000
That was also in BHP.
"We are really fortunate to have a strong housing authority," Hyser says.
BHP also adjusted vouchers and rent for 215 voucher holders to the tune of $220,000
Going over mediation now. I like Armstrong, and I think it's nice to have this, but it's 1.) Voluntary (both parties have to agree to participate) and 2.) Not legally binding
Nonprofit legal providers and tenants advocates say the process, when used for evictions, starts with the assumption that an eviction is going to happen. So they question its effectiveness in that arena.
In my personal experience, I found that they sometimes treat parties as equal in bringing them to the table even when one is doing something legally dubious.
And I didn't find it to be trauma informed in any sense of the word.
But, yeah, mediation.
What Boulder HHS has invested in so far this year:
EFAA Keep Families Housed: 741 COB households
EFAA Shelter and Basic Needs: 960 COB households
(65% increase from January – June 2019)
SPAN: Emergency shelter to 95 adult survivors, 36 children
Notes: SPAN is for victims of domestic violence
I previously did contract work for EFAA
Other city investments in HHS:
• Food Security = $1.7M
• Direct Health Services = $1.7M
• Wellness, Health Care Access Services = $1.1M
• Economic Mobility and Inclusivity = $600K
"Our partners are seeing these needs are up 20-70% compared to what they experienced last year," Hyser says.
All these services matter, Hyser says, bc they free up $$ for rent.
2020 Planned & Budgeted Funds = $590,000

Additional Funding Invested COVID-19 Response = $930,000
Back to mediation: During COVID, that's being incorporated into the eviction process, presenting info at the time of filing and offering mediation at court.
80% resolution in cases, since June
Hyser: "Unless congress and the state reinstate an eviction moratorium" and extend unemployment insurance ... "our best approach is to continue doing what we're doing... monitoring, coordinating ... protecting where we can."
Young has "several" questions.
She look tired AF.
Young: You talked about how successful mediation is. For nonpayment of rent, the ones that are not successful, what happens?
Armstrong taking that one: In 22% of those cases, we are able to get them to mediation. Just 3 cases total have gone to mediation and haven't reached a resolution.
"Some folks are just entrenched in what they're seeking and feel they'll have a better outcome if they take it to court and settle," Armstrong says.
Young asks about in-court mediation.
Armstrong: The judges are extremely supportive. Whenever a tenant shows up in court, they encourage if not require that the parties step out into the hall to mediate.
I'mma call not quite bullshit on this but seriously question... How can you possibly mediate something in a few minutes, before a pre-scheduled court hearing?
Armstrong: When we reach an agreements, sometimes it's for the tenant to remain in the property. And in some cases it's coming up with a reasonable timeline for the tenant to move out.
In 20% of cases we're not able to reach agreement, they go to the judge who rules or sets trial
Young: Are the folks represented by attorneys or there by themselves?
Armstrong: Typically they are not represented by attorneys. The mediators are well trained. We offer an info packet with some terms to help to orient them and navigate the process.
NEWR's Ruy Arango is on the call. Young wants to ask him a q.
Yates will allow this.
Young: Have you considered mediation as one of the potential beneficiaries of the fee you're looking at?
Arango: Short answer is no. I will say that myself and everyone on the campaign has seen the mediators doing really good work for the hundreds of eviction cases we recorded
It's our belief that access to representation would help tenants use mediation more effectively. Mediators are not advocates, and they can't give legal advice.
Young: Would you be open to having mediation included in the use of funds?
Arango: No
Firnhaber: Mediation has always been available, but through COVID, we've put significantly more resources into mediation.
Armstrong: Making info on mediation available when eviction first starts is having an impact. We're seeing on average 2 cases a week dismissed before they get to court.

That started 6 weeks ago.
Friend: We are talking about state and federal action. Polis asked cities to suspend occupancy limits during COVID. Where is that?
Brautigam: "We have not moved forward with it and that's where it is."
Friend: Didn't we leave it that we were going to do something?
No one remembers.
Friend: OK then I'm bringing it up again.
Brockett: Maybe we can do a moratorium on enforcement due to over-occupancy.
Friend: Idk if there are fines or things that go along with that, so I would hope a moratorium would be on all penalties.
Brockett: Good point
Shifting to the NEWR discussion now.
Brockett starting first. He's the one who was negotiating with the campaign, which has qualified for the ballot. Full stop. They can be on.

But Brockett wanted to add in rental assistance to legal representation. The campaign agreed.
The $75 fee per unit per year would raise ~$1.5M. NEWR based that on other programs in other cities, where demand quickly outstripped supply.
IF council wanted to add in rental assistance, it would then have to be a council action to put that on the ballot. Bc what's been certified is what has to go on the ballot; it can't be amended and still qualify WITHOUT council.
"My intention was not to start a long negotiation with council and say what are any number of things we might change," Brockett says. It was just this small amendment.
Yesterday, of course, Wallach, Weaver and Yates suggested all the many things they might want to change: Means testing, making it a tax and not a fee, exempting affordable housing, maybe making it less than $75/unit/year
Carr: "If the committee does not withdraw the petition, you have to put it on the ballot."

That's what this whole thing depends on: NEWR won't withdraw if council makes too many changes. But they will if council ONLY adds in rental relief.
BUT council has the right to put its own measure as a competing measure on the ballot, with the winner-take-all approach.

"I'm not suggesting you do it, but that's a possibility," Carr says.
Carr on tax vs. fee: "It's defensible as a fee; it's more defensible as a tax."
NEWR not in favor of the tax bc it's less likely to be passed by the voters and adds a ton of language bc of TABOR
NEWR doesn't exempt affordable housing units (I forgot to ask why today, but I think I recall it's because BHP is actually one of the largest evictor-s in the city, by sheer number of units and nature of lower-income tenants)
Also, NEWR not a fan of means testing bc not every program in other cities does this, and it adds burden to ppl during a crisis to gather documents and prove their poverty.
The main reason for means testing, Arango said, is to exclude ppl. And most ppl facing eviction are obviously in financial strain.
Joseph: Are you willing to withdraw your petition?
Arango: If the amended ordinance JUST includes rental assistance as the only change, then yes.
Swetlik: Why don't you want a tax or to exempt BHP? Does that impact how much is raised?
Arango: It would make a considerable difference. Funding would be reduced by 8%.
Arango: We didn't write that in bc even though they are providing affordable housing, they are still landlords and they still do evict their tenants. ... Not to say there's any particular malice.
Young: Why don't you want to include mediation? (She already asked this)
Arango: The purpose of the NEWR program would be to provide legal counsel to tenants and hopefully rental assistance.
It's the opinion of the campaign that tenants having legal counsel is more beneficial than mediation. This is not to say I don't think mediators are doing good work, but there's a greater value to having legal counsel.
Wallach (with a sigh): Why do it as a fee vs. a tax if a tax is less vulnerable to challenge?
Arango: We chose a fee bc we didn't want to make it a tax bc of TABOR. I don't think that' a surprise to anyone here. TABOR introduces all sorts of restrictions.
It was unclear that a tax could be levied on landlords the way fees are, via rental licenses. And the legal precedent, the campaign and our legal counsel share the opinion of the Colorado Supreme Court. We feel pretty confident it would survive a lawsuit.
Wallach (another sigh): What are the boundaries of legal representation? Are we funding appeals? At what point is it satisfied?
Arango: It's full scope, the entirety of eviction proceedings, which carries through to the court hearing. It's possible they could go through to appeal
"That goes as far as the tenant needs it to," Arango says
Wallach: Who makes that determination? What if they want to keep appealing?
Arango: That would go back to the legal services coordinator and the tenants committee.
"It's my expectation they would act in the best interest of the program. If for whatever reason a tenant wanted to keep banging their head up against a wall with no chance of victory, I doubt they would encourage that behavior."
Wallach: I would urge you to reconsider taking $100,000 from BHP, who is dedicated to providing affordable housing, which is going to diminish support from what is otherwise a worthy and workable initiative.
Arango: I don't think NEWR and BHP are at odds at all. I think NEWR is going to ensure ppl stay in their homes and avoid homelessness. The fee is quite a small amount and to my knowledge, HHS had their budget cut by $8.4M over the past 2 years anyway.
"Compared to that amount, it's really trifling."
Joseph (why is her audio always so LOUD): I've participated in mediation and seen it firsthand. I think Young's comments are valid.

To Firnhaber: Is there a shortage of funding for mediation? Do you think it should be included in this?
Firnhaber: I think to sustain mediation at this current level, it might take a bit more funding. It's probably not significant. It's probably in the $50,000-$100,000 per year.
One clarification: It would be a 10% reduction in the fee if affordable housing was exempt.
$216,000 per year would be on affordable rentals, enough to create about 3 affordable units per year
Firnhaber: I'm reluctant to give an opinion on including mediation. That's voluntary; the legal system is there and doesn't require agreement of the parties.
Friend: I don't see it as either/or: mediation or representation. Would NEWR allow an attorney to be included in mediation?
Arango: There's absolutely no reason why tenant attorneys wouldn't participate in mediation.
Mediation is under-utilized by tenants *because* they don't have an attorney, Arango says. "We'd love to see mediators mediating with two sides that are equally balanced."
Yates: Based on the number of evictions, which are BoCo, so maybe we can extrapolate, any guesstimate of how much of that $$ collected would be spent on legal fees?
Idk why he's asking Carr instead of, you know, the ppl who created the program.
Carr: If we did it in-house, I'd guess half a million
Yates: So it sounds like it would be significantly less than the $1.8M-$2M that would be collected?
Carr: I'm not running the program, but I'd guess so.
Yates (finally to Arango): I'm struggling with why there would be resistance to exempt affordable housing. If there's more than enough, maybe more than $1M left over?
Arango: We spent a long time on the funding component. Our first step was to work with local legal service providers, folks who are already providing legal counsel for tenants experiencing eviction. We developed a base number of $750,000.
We took that to our partners at the national right to counsel movement. There are dozens of programs around the country. Folks who were involved in those programs gave "very specific advice" that the initial amount we budgeted for would "likely be insufficient."
Reasons for that: Eviction is increasing nationwide, even before COVID. In BoCo, 27% increase in summons to eviction court since 2016.
Also: There are official evictions that occur within the court system, but there are unofficial or extrajudicial evictions. Those are unrecorded bc they never enter the court system.
Often, renters leave when they get a warning from the landlord, or just when the first notice is posted (which really gives them 10 days to cure, now 30 during COVID, before the legal process starts)
That causes "an expansion of demand," Arango says.
"I'm troubled by the 3 housing units per year we'd lose," Yates says.
Yates: How would you feel if the first XXX amount goes to representation, all you need, but with $$ left over, council can either do eviction prevention or giving it back to affordable housing providers?
Wouldn't... wouldn't it be better to save ppl from eviction?
Arango: That sounds an awful lot like negotiation.
Yates: Would you be offended if we gave $$ back to affordable housing providers.
Arango: We're here tonight bc of our interest and offer to council with the amended measure that does include rental assistance. That's what we're interested in.
Yates: I'll take that as a no.
Yates: Is either ballot measure, the original or amended version with rental assistance, does that limit it to the $$ the city receives? Or does the city have to provide the service if it doesn't get enough $$?
Carr: The only $$ would come from the fee.
Yates: So if Ruy is right and demand outstrips supply, we'd just stop funding that, right?
Carr: Yes.
Arango agrees but the language does allow the city to expand the scope of the program if they so choose.
Wallach: You are much more knowledgeable about the proceedings than I am. Does this entitle you to an attorney if your lease is just expired?
Arango: I don't believe that's part of the definition of eviction proceedings.
Swetlik: "It's pretty clear to me they're here for one purpose and one purpose only, and that's a purpose I would support. Rental assistance is a good addition. If we don't include that, any overage is just going to be an overage."
"The alternative is they just go with what they got the signatures for anyway," Swetlik says. "I think there's improvement to be had."
Friend concurs. "It's a focused, well-researched effort. ... The NEWR team seems to have thought pretty concretely through ... how they formulated this."
Yates: I'm supportive ... I appreciate very much everyone involved in this amendment. I think that increases the likelihood of success, but I would be remiss in not saying I'm disappointed in two changes I think are perfectly reasonable.
Those changes are: Exempt or refund affordable housing providers. "I simply don't understand, if there's plenty of $$ to pay the lawyers, why anyone would care if future councils decided to refund that to affordable housing providers rather than doing eviction prevention."
And: Make it a tax.
"There is a non-zero risk that some judge will consider this a tax," Yates says. "It's a language change. ... I don't think it's less likely to pass. There's a risk someone will come in and take the position this was a tax, was not properly passed..."
"We'll all be embarrassed, the fee will go away and then we'll have nothing for eviction representation or prevention."

Yeah, kind of like we do today, huh?
Wallach (more sighing) agrees with Yates.
"To me, it's simply putting the program at risk."

A PROGRAM THAT DOESN'T EVEN EXIST YET SO... why do these ppl care? If they really were worried about eviction representation, wouldn't they have done something already?
Council: *Does nothing*
Citizens: *Do something*
Council: No, not like that
Wallach to Arango: I would hope you would think about this a little bit.

Yeah, like maybe in the past year+ they spent developing and working with everywhere else THAT HAS ALREADY DONE THIS?
Nagle's with Wallach and Yates.
Wallach to Brockett: Thanks for your hard work on this (even though I'm disregarding it)
That's a wrap on this one. @threadreaderapp please unroll. Thank you.
I'm sorry, I gotta add another one here. Wallach, Yates and Nagle are all like, What about the legal risk? while ignoring that Carr said it was defensible.

Yes, he also said a tax was "more defensible" but he DID say a fee was defensible.
And, again, other cities have already done this. And as NEWR said, there is precedent for a fee on landlords but not for a tax specifically on landlords. (You'd be getting into property tax at that point, which are limited by state law and typically a county realm)
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