The City of Boulder is now requiring tenants seeking rental assistance to have a court date for an eviction hearing. Credit: John Herrick

In recent months, City of Boulder officials have been burning through their budget for rental assistance at about twice the rate as last year, forcing them to make difficult decisions about who should have access to the remaining funds.   

To stretch its limited pot of money further, city officials last month began requiring tenants seeking rental assistance to first have received a summons to appear in housing court, according to city officials. 

Previously, under the city’s Eviction Prevention and Rental Assistance Services Program, or EPRAS, households could apply for up to $3,000 in assistance, regardless of whether their landlord sought to evict them. 

But city officials said if it kept those parameters, it would run out of money before the end of the year. 

“This is a really tough choice,” Jay Allen, a program coordinator with the City of Boulder who helps oversee the EPRAS program, told Boulder Reporting Lab. “The real goal here is to help the people who are most impacted.” 

The program is paid for through a $75 tax on rental licenses. The tax is expected to generate about $1.4 million in 2023, according to the city. Most of the money goes toward rental assistance. The rest goes toward administering the program, paying attorneys to provide free mediation and legal services, and issuing stipends to the five members of the Tenant Advisory Committee who oversee the program. 

So far this year, the city has spent about $300,000 on rental assistance payments, according to city data. That translates to about $60,000 per month. In 2022, the city was spending about $35,000 per month, Allen said. 

The requirement that tenants have a court date is the second change the city has made to the program this year. Earlier this year, the city reduced the amount of money households can receive from $4,000 to $3,000. 

The increased demand for the city’s rental assistance comes after Boulder County’s federally funded rental assistance program ran out of money last month. In the last two years, the county distributed $17.9 million to landlords and tenants, according to county officials. Since it stopped accepting applications, eviction case filings in Boulder County courts have jumped to the highest levels in three years. 

The latest adjustment to the EPRAS program means more city residents are expected to end up in court, a high-stakes stage in the eviction process the program has sought to prevent because it can lead to more housing instability or homelessness. 

For city residents, eviction hearings are scheduled on Fridays at 9 a.m. at the Boulder County Justice Center. Tenants, some of whom take time off from work to attend the court hearings, can wait hours for their case to be called up. (Tenants can appear remotely, too). Landlords, meanwhile, often seek attorneys fees — typically costing hundreds of dollars — after they file eviction complaints, making it even harder for tenants to catch up on rent. 

“It’s going to impact people,” Allen said. “We’re waiting to see what the impact is in the longer term about who ends up being sent to eviction court.”

Residents can still apply for rental assistance through private organizations, including Sister Carmen, based in Lafayette, or the Emergency Family Assistance Association (EFAA), a Boulder-based nonprofit that provides emergency financial assistance. 

EFAA received about $500,000 from the city’s EPRAS program last year to administer rental assistance. It provides up to $3,000 per household. This amount could change in the coming months as the organization budgets for the next fiscal year, according to Julie Van Domelen, EFAA’s executive director.

To qualify for rent assistance through EFAA, a tenant must have a demand notice to pay rent from their landlord. Under Colorado law, landlords have to provide tenants a 10-day notice before filing an eviction complaint. Tenants have the right to pay their past-due rent during this window. 

Tenants who live in certain federally subsidized properties must receive a 30-day notice, according to a recent Colorado Supreme Court opinion. In anticipation of the ruling, many landlords had already started providing 30-day notices, potentially reducing the number of evictions that end up in court, according to attorneys who represent tenants. Even so, apartment associations, including the Boulder Area Rental Housing Association, have fought the 30-day notice requirement due to concerns it would lead to “lost rental income” and “delays in the turnover of residential rental properties.” 

Allen, who oversees the city’s EPRAS program, said the city is planning to see if demand for rental assistance changes over the next year before pursuing additional funding for the program. It was created after voters approved the No Eviction Without Representation ballot measure in 2020, the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

“At the beginning of the program, there were bans on evictions, there were restrictions on evictions, there was a lot more funding available, there were a lot more tools to prevent evictions,” Allen said. “I think we still need to get a little bit more of an idea of what the new normal is.” 

John Herrick is senior reporter for Boulder Reporting Lab, covering housing, transportation, policing and local government. He previously covered the state Capitol for The Colorado Independent and environmental policy for He is interested in stories about people, power and fairness. Email:

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1 Comment

  1. We have to stop housing, feeding, educating, and medicating the entire world. We need to take care of our own first. Would you let your own children go hungry and homeless in order to feed and house the neighbor kids? When ours are taken care of, then and only then, should we take on the needs of all others.

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