Denver voters came out against a new excise tax on landlords to fund a legal defense program for tenants facing eviction.
Initiated Ordinance 305, known as No Eviction Without Representation Denver, was trailing by a roughly 60% to 40% margin throughout the night, with 68,981 no votes and 45,721 in favor as of 10:15 p.m., according to Denver election results.
Supporters of 305 said they would remain hopeful until every single vote was counted.
“Nevertheless, this is a success story of a few housing activists who took on the status quo to make a huge material change in the lives of Denver renters, and we look forward to seeing the full results in the coming hours and days,” Mary Imgrund, a spokeswoman for No Eviction Without Representation or NEWR, said in an email.
The measure would have charged landlords in Denver $75 per year per unit they own. The money from that inflation-adjusted tax, estimated at just shy of $12 million in the first year, would go to fund the legal defense for tenants during eviction proceedings.
Supporters argued that the measure would reduce homelessness and ease the acute housing crisis by creating a more level playing field between landlords and tenants. Very few tenants obtain legal representation because of costs and other barriers. But when they do, they are much more likely to remain in their homes as shown by a successful program in New York City.
But opponents, such as the Colorado Apartment Association, argue the fund would raise far more than is needed given the current number of eviction cases in Denver and lends itself to bureaucratic overkill, given that Denver already has a “right-to-counsel” ordinance in place. And in the end, the costs would be passed on to tenants.