Building Blocks Podcast: Tenant's Rights and Anti-Displacement Advocacy
In March 2016, Matthew Desmond exposed readers to the many faces of the housing crisis through his groundbreaking book, Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City. Desmond’s study not only revealed the deeply personal effects of the eviction process on families, but also sparked a nationwide conversation on the roles race, gender, and economic mobility play in the search for decent, safe, and affordable housing. Unfortunately, the scale of America’s eviction problem is far greater than the stories of the Milwaukee residents in Desmond’s book.
As keynote speaker for Enterprise’s 2017 Denver Forum for the First, Desmond underscored the importance of local and regional efforts to protect affordable housing in Denver, a city where residents are facing the consequences of rapid development and associated housing cost escalation at an overwhelming rate. In 2016, 36,000 families in Colorado received official eviction notices. However, the number of actual evictions is likely to be even higher as state and local data does not typically consider actions such as “cash-for-keys” agreements, tenant intimidation, landlord foreclosures, or building condemnations when measuring the scale of this problem.
To better understand the Denver region’s housing challenges, I invited Melinda Pollack, Enterprise’s Vice President of National Initiatives, to the Building Blocks Podcast to explore the genesis of Denver’s issues and share examples of the grassroots efforts to prevent community displacement.
Over the last 20 years, Denver has seen incredible growth due to major investments in its transit system, a booming tech economy, and a consistent wave of newcomers. However, longtime residents, as in many other metropolitan areas, have found it increasingly difficult to keep up with increased rents in the face of stagnating wages and an aging, limited housing stock. In late 2017, Freddie Mac released a report finding that the amount of housing in Colorado that was affordable to people making less than half of the median income had plunged by more than 75% between 2010 and 2016 - one of the biggest decreases in the country.
Lacking government protections, affordable units have been torn down, converted, or purchased to make room for new development with little consideration for what this growth will mean for low- to median-income Denverites. These pressures in the housing market have led to increased evictions and forced displacement with profound effects on both the individual family and the broader community - often triggering family homelessness, job loss, or declines in physical and mental health.
To combat this trend, Enterprise’s Denver market has made the commitment to work with housing advocates, low-income communities, and Colorado legislators to enact housing policy changes at the state and local levels. By increasing the resources available for affordable housing and removing barriers to its development, Denver has a chance to make large scale housing preservation sustainable for the long-term. This, coupled with meaningful protections for existing residents, will allow for more Denverites to benefit from the region’s growth.
Learn more about Denver’s complex affordable housing climate and efforts to protect tenant’s rights on episode 4 of Building Blocks: Connecting People, Places, and Policies.