Boulder poised to add eviction protection, rental assistance

Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020 (Updated Friday, Nov. 6)

Working-class organizers of a push to provide attorneys for Boulder renters facing eviction were celebrating Tuesday night, as their measure appeared poised for victory at the polls. Ballot question 2B, No Eviction Without Representation, had nearly 59% support when Ruy Arango decided to call it, before 9 p.m.

“We feel pretty confident 2B will pass,” he said, adding that he wasn’t staying up to ensure victory was in hand. “We’re working people; we have shitty jobs we need to get up early and go to.”

NEWR maintained its lead late Thursday, as thousands more ballots were counted. Turnout in city of Boulder precincts was 86%.

2B: No Eviction Without Representation
As of 11:47 p.m. Thursday
32,334 yes (58.52%)
22,917 no (41.48%)
Total votes: 55,251
Source: Boulder County Clerk and Recorder

The initiative began as a citizen petition, garnering more than 3,500 verified signatures and earning automatic ballot placement — the only local citizen-led effort to do so. However, it was an amended version which ultimately went before voters. 

Council members expressed concern about the lack of rental assistance in the original petition. That was added in, and the funding mechanism changed from a fee to a tax.

It was a nuanced shift, not altering the fundamentals of the program. The tax will still be paid by property owners. City attorney Tom Carr felt that calling it a tax rather than a fee made it more defensible should a legal challenge arise. 

Boulder Area Rental Housing Association, a group representing landlords, opposed 2B. BARHA president Todd Ulrich on Wednesday sent an email congratulating NEWR on its victory at the polls.

“We are pleased there will be additional resources for those residents in need,” Ulrich wrote. “BARHA sincerely hopes this effort will produce the intended results. We look forward to working with the City, and learning more about the logistics of this new program.”

The program will still have to be implemented by the city, which has to create a new position to dole out the funds and seat an advisory board of renters. Arango said he and other organizers hope that will happen “as soon as is humanly possible.”

Colorado has banned evictions due to COVID-related financial hardship for the rest of the year. However, landlords can still pursue eviction through the courts; judges or juries will decide if the eviction moratorium applies.

The vast majority of tenants are not represented by attorneys in eviction proceedings, NEWR found in a months-long observation of court cases. Just 2% show up with lawyers, versus 88% of property owners.

“We’re really gratified that the people of Boulder have decided to take a stand against eviction and housing insecurity,” Arango said Tuesday night. “We are going to continue moving forward, accumulating working class and renting power in the city of Boulder. We are the people who work in the city, we rent here, we make the city run.”

See more local results here.

Author’s note: This story has been updated with the latest unofficial totals.

— Shay Castle, boulderbeatnews@gmail.com, @shayshinecastle

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