One Year Later...
In 2020, Coloradans Stayed at Home and Worked from Home, and Apartments are home for many of them.
Here's how the Multifamily Industry Responded
The year 2020 started out with hope and prosperity; a new decade, an election year and another chance for fresh beginnings. Unfortunately, in a matter of weeks, the coronavirus caused a global pandemic and began influencing economics and policy in ways we never could have predicted. Layoffs and hiring freezes came in droves, and millions across the nation were suddenly out of work. Every industry was hit in one form or another, but housing was at the top of the list of concerns. For a brief few days there was unsubstantiated panic that apartments were not safe because of common ventilation systems. Clearly this subsided and apartment homes became one of our society’s greatest assets to safely work and live.
Coloradans experiencing job loss and reduced hours worried about housing costs and turned to Colorado’s rental housing industry for assistance. With no precedent for handling a global pandemic, the Apartment Association (both AAMD & CAA) and the industry were thrown into a predicament. Uncertainty dominated everyone’s lives more than ever before. However rapid as things were changing, most figured out we needed to adapt and be informed. Our industry in particular thrived on quality information in order to make those
necessary changes. The long, arduous year to follow would give the phrase to “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” a different meaning in the rental housing industry.
Call to Action
First things first – the rental housing industry needed to provide solutions. As members, renters and the general public were reeling with questions, the Association developed a list of FAQs to offer clarity, which quickly became the primary resource for rental housing concerns in Colorado. The majority of March and April was spent gathering every possible resource to help with utilities and rental assistance available to
members and their renters.
Housing quickly became a focus due to job loss and a plea by public officials for people to work from, learn from, shop from - and most importantly - stay at home. Media coverage increased, and between AAMD & CAA our resources reached more than 43.9 million people during these initial months. Colorado’s governor
mentioned CAA’s “relief guide” as a notable resource in a statewide press conference and the National Apartment Association added that CAA had one of the best COVID-19 recovery programs nationwide. “The dissemination of information, especially early on, was extremely helpful both to our organization and the industry as a whole,” said Zvi Rudawsky, long time AAMD member and owner of Boutique Properties.
Rental housing providers grew concerned in making ends meet as residents began to struggle with paying rent. How would properties pay employees? How would property owners pay their own bills and care for their families during this crisis?
A halt in rent payments would quickly impact rental housing providers’ mortgages. While rent payments only make up 39% of mortgage payments, a critical expense to avoid foreclosure and a loss of housing, 27% of rent payments go toward paying employees, 14% goes to property taxes, 10% goes to capital expenditures and 9% goes to owners – each of which are critical expenses for operating businesses, sustaining the economy, protecting jobs and supporting the community. In addition, when rental housing providers are faced with foreclosure, they aren’t able to pay taxes, causing a larger chain reaction in supporting public workers such as first responders and teachers.
Rental housing providers understood the temporary set backs and were willing to work with their residents in creative and flexible ways to maintain their homes.
As the pandemic continued, Colorado residents threatened a “rent strike”, which would have turned things inside out. Instead, the Association stood tall with media stories illustrating how this would have completely
exacerbated the situation and renters were calmed, educated and encouraged to continue to pay their rent. Housing providers reached out to their customers in ways they never had before, working with residents to help solve whatever challenge they may have been facing. Ultimately, the industry as a whole was forced to get creative to keep Colorado’s rental community afloat – for all parties involved.
Finding Creative Solutions
As the rental housing industry was getting hit from different directions, AAMD & CAA, its members and the industry were all determined to make things work. Immediately, the Association secured 20,000 masks and provided them to members in need.
Rental housing providers worked with residents to develop restructuring agreements, freeze rent increases and late fees, and implement individual payment plans. To help, AAMD partnered with the Resident Relief
Foundation (RRF) to create a financial relief fund for Colorado residents.
Throughout 2020, the rental housing industry was able to raise nearly $160,000 for RRF. A portion of those funds came from Rena Brittan, a Denver 13-year-old who decided to raise rent money for Coloradans facing financial hardships as part of her bat mitzvah project. Along the way, her story reached more than 35 million people through interviews and media coverage - including national media outlet ABC News and coverage across several states and ABC stations.
In the very early days of the pandemic, CAA immediately created a COVID Task Force and Crisis Team where hundreds of members were kept informed of the latest best practices in response to the evolving situation. With the development of its Task Force, over 3,000 association members representing over 300,000 rental units throughout Colorado had the opportunity to ask questions, discuss best practices, share experiences, understand executive orders and other government policy… and simply offer advice to each other.
“This task force gave a voice to many CAA members concerned about their businesses and the future of the rental housing market in Colorado,” said Peggy Panzer of Laramar and Chairperson of the COVID-19 Task Force. “We talked through best practices, legislative updates and what the association was doing to help members through the pandemic. Through anecdotes, participation and in-call polling questions, we were able to represent and support the rental housing industry during such a critical and uncertain time.”
As a testament to CAA’s leadership, the COVID-19 Task Force provided insight and guidance for members of all sizes.
“As a small fish in the big pond, the information and interaction in the task force meetings has been invaluable,” said Vicky Pelton of Acacia Apartments. “The information and perspective of companies with 5,000+ units helped me to stay grounded and within the 'norms' for our area. I learned that even those
with more than $1,300 units have the same issues that we experience and have essentially the same solutions as we've arrived at.”
Fighting for Rental Assistance, not Eviction Moratoria
Under the CARES Act, eviction filings were halted until July 25, 2020. Upon expiration, eviction filings across the state were only 34% of the normal filings within the month of July and 23% of August. Rental housing providers were choosing to work with residents, but the incorrect narrative on an eviction tsunami ahead
only grew louder.
That’s when orders from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) put a halt on all evictions until the end of 2020. Rental housing providers faced new and added problems presented by the CDC’s eviction moratorium: Residents not affected by COVID-19 stopped paying rent, residents breaking rules created disruptions for
other neighbors, and a lack of rental payments affected property improvements, staff, vendors and overall operations.
Nonetheless, CAA and Colorado’s rental housing industry prevailed. Through providing advocacy and educational messaging, the public and media started to see that rental housing providers were struggling too, and rental assistance, instead of an eviction moratorium, was the better solution to the current rent debate.
Supporting Colorado's Rental Market
Throughout the chaotic year of housing disruptions and economic upheaval, rental housing providers pivoted and remained innovative to keep residents in their homes to the best extent possible while under the challenging circumstances. From April through December 2020, Colorado’s rental housing ecosystem continued with high rent collection rates – all due to the tremendous solutions put forth by the rental housing industry and individual rental housing providers.
One Year Later
And what a year it has been. CAA and the rental housing industry have fearlessly prevailed from the pandemic’s impacts and persevered in keeping as many Coloradans in their homes as possible.
In the one year since this global atrocity has come to life, it’s become blatantly obvious that the rental housing industry serves a role much larger than housing. Together, we are a resource for education, a voice for representation, and a network for communication benefitting all residents and rental housing providers in