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Low-Income Renters Struggle To Stay In Denver

DENVER (CBS4) - The U.S. Census Bureau reports that 1,000 new households move to Denver every month. That influx of people is pushing up rental rates and displacing lower income workers who can no longer afford to live in the city.

On Thursday, Denver's Office of Economic Development hosted its second annual Affordable Housing Summit. It brought together hundreds of housing experts to discuss how to keep the Denver metro area affordable and accessible, at a time when many long-time residents are finding themselves without a home.

Charles Hartfield has 61 days to get out of his apartment. He got a letter notifying him that his lease would not be renewed and he would not be eligible for month-to-month rental. When he talked to the management company, he was told that they were no longer accepting Section 8 Housing Vouchers, which is what helps Hartfield pay his rent.

Charles Hartfield
Charles Hartfield (credit: CBS)

"I was stung. I was like… really?" Hartfield told CBS4.

Hartfield has only had the voucher for one year. He got it after being on a waiting list for 10-years.

"It's hard, right now, to find a place with Section 8," Hartfield said of the voucher.

That's a familiar story, Jo Hemit hears all the time. She's the executive director of South Metro Housing Options, which manages hundreds of vouchers.

"When the rents are high like they are now, we have less landlords participating because they can get more rents," Hemit explained.

She says in her 11-year history with the organization she's seen participation in the program ebb and flow. In the current housing market, many apartment complex owners are opting to end their current leases, renovate the apartments, and raise the rents.

Apartment Complex
(credit: CBS)

"There's no requirement that they participate," Hemit added.

That trend of investment and renovation leaves renters, like Charles Hartfield in a bind. Hartfield's son goes to George Washington High School, he works nearby his home, he'd like to stay in his neighborhood, but he may not be able to.

"It's hard to get someone to take your Section 8," he said.

Denver's Office of Economic Development released a new report showing all the neighborhoods vulnerable to an influx of investment that can ultimately push lower income residents out. The city hopes to stop the displacement by actively developing affordable housing in these areas, but so far that hasn't helped Hartfield find a new home.

LINK: Gentrification Study: Mitigating Involuntary Displacement

Libby Smith is a Special Projects Producer at CBS4. If you have a story you'd like to tell CBS4 about, call 303-863-TIPS (8477) or visit the News Tips section.

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