DENVER (KDVR) — The Denver City Council is telling Mayor Mike Johnston to spend more money on rental assistance programs to prevent evictions, something several groups say leads to more people becoming unhoused.
The council suggested the mayor approve adding $17 million more than the $12 million in his proposed budget for that purpose.
“We do have a crisis on our hands, and we need to find a way to meet the actual need that is out there and that it should be one of the top priorities in the mayor’s budget this year,” said Sarah Parady, at-large council member.
One member of the council, Darrell Watson of District 9, said it is a noble idea, but cuts would have to be made in other city departments to make it happen.
The goal is curbing any more people from becoming homeless, according to at-large council member, Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez.
“Preventing involuntary displacement for people, making sure that we’re addressing root causes,” Gonzales-Gutierrez said.
Both Gonzales-Gutierrez and Parady voted to add more to the rental assistance fund.
1 vote opposed more Denver rental assistance
The sole opposition vote came from Watson.
Watson provided a statement that maintains his support of rental assistance programs, but he said, in part, that “offsetting that spending with the required spending cuts to departments is not a demonstration of fiscal discipline.”
Watson said the council “must be willing to make the tough decisions, not simply as a reaction to a potential veto by the administration, but as a core practice within our role.”
On the subject of the sweeping of encampments, both Gonzales-Gutierrez and Parady said they are wondering why housing is being provided to some but not others.
“I have actually asked the same question to the mayor’s office, why they were treated differently,” Gonzales-Gutierrez said.
Parady said the city should be doing what it can to keep people off the streets.
“What do we do to try to keep them as safe and stable as we can while we move towards housing? And to me, sweeps are not usually going to be the answer to that,” Parady said.
What’s the solution for homelessness?
Parady said micro-communities are part of the solution to rampant homelessness, despite concerns from residents who might live near them.
“Long term, that is the solution to people being unhoused and on the streets, is to provide tiers of shelters and housing,” Parady said.
Next up for the budget debate, Johnston will release his version of the budget on Oct. 16.
Johnston’s budget could be very different from what the council advised, including boosting rental assistance spending, or it could fall in line with their suggestions.