Gov. Jared Polis responded to concerns about pandemic-related evictions and homelessness on Wednesday by announcing the creation of a new task force that will deliver "concrete, actionable" recommendations within about six weeks.
"The looming housing issue is really a complicated challenge, there’s no easy solution," Polis said at a press conference. "We're really looking forward to getting actionable items and thoughts on what more the state can do in that area."
The new group includes affordable housing experts, developers and municipal leaders. But the announcement of the "Special Eviction Prevention Task Force" met early criticism from housing advocates who have pressed Polis to reinstate an evictions ban and a ban on rental late fees.
Javier Mabrey, an attorney with the COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project, said that the Polis task force's 10-person roster didn't represent renters, including advocates who specialize in eviction defense
"The task force prioritizes the voices of businesses and landlords, and there are no renter's advocates on there. There are people that do good work and people who do work in communities that impact housing and support the poor, but there's nobody there that's directly involved in representing tenants in the eviction process," Mabrey said.
"We just think it's kind of ridiculous that this is the task force that's aimed at stopping evictions," he said, arguing the governor should reinstate his earlier bans on eviction and late fees.
Mabrey's group has organized free legal help for people facing eviction, and it has pressured Polis to take stronger action. He argued that renters and their advocates have crucial knowledge of how the courts work on housing issues.
The governor has previously said he is reluctant to interfere with private contracts and that "people generally should be back at work and earning money" as the state's economy reopens. Eviction filings in Colorado courts have accelerated since Polis' ban expired in June, but a long-feared "tsunami" hasn't hit yet.
Polis' office said the new task force's membership was supposed to represent a diverse set of people from the "housing and development space."
The task force is:
- Chris Romer of Denver, former state senator and CEO of Project Canary, a climate-change mitigation company
- Skippy Leigh Upton Mesirow of Aspen, city council and housing board member
- Andrew Feinstein of Denver, developer involved in affordable housing
- Rachel Friend of Boulder, city council member
- Ty L. Coleman of Alamosa, mayor
- Jennifer Kermode of Gunnison, executive director, Gunnison Valley Regional Housing Authority
- Leanne Denise Wheeler of Aurora, former council candidate, affordable housing developer, board member for Colorado Coalition for the Homeless
- Jennifer Linda Rodgers of Denver, vice president, Enterprise Community Partners
- Beatriz Gonzalez of Broomfield, vice president, community lending and diverse markets business development officer, Bank of the West
- Paul Newell of Greenwood Village, CFO, Monarch Investment & Management Group
Editor's note: This article was updated with new information about the task force members.