AURORA | A majority of Aurora City Council members declared Monday that “housing is a human right” in a statement of support that didn’t change or create new laws.
Lawmakers also unanimously supported declaring every April “Second Chance Month” in Aurora, drawing attention to the plight of convicted criminals who have served their time but continue to face barriers in employment, housing and other facets of daily life.
The “housing is a human right” declaration narrowly passed the city council. Council members Crystal Murillo, Angela Lawson, Alison Coombs, Nicole Johnston, Allison Hiltz and Juan Marcano supported the measure.
Murillo, who represents north Aurora’s Ward I and sponsored the item, said the declaration defines an “aspirational” goal for lawmakers attempting to remedy soaring housing costs. She said the resolution will become a lodestar for “some really productive conversations moving forward.”
Rising costs and high demand in Aurora have threatened the city’s longstanding reputation as an affordable place to live. Across Aurora, an income of at least $50,000 annually was necessary to rent a home in 2017. That’s about $10,000 more than the average renter’s median income, according to the city’s 2020 Housing Study, which also identified other housing “gaps.”
The Sentinel reported last month that homeownership is also becoming more difficult to attain in Aurora’s blazing hot housing market. In February, the average median home price in Aurora hovered around $438,000.
Some residents who called into the city council meeting Monday night were furious with the housing market and what they said was the unwillingness of lawmakers to fix it.
One caller told lawmakers that she paid $1,000 for a 400 square-foot apartment filled with rats. “I don’t understand why we have to beg you to look out for us,” she told the council.
A resident who spoke Spanish said she’d suffered at the hands of predatory landlords repeatedly jacking up rent until they couldn’t afford it any more.
Another resident said her family is living with her in-laws because they can’t afford a place of their own.
Council member Marsha Berzins, who voted against the resolution, said the comments reminded her of residents who sought to save Aurora’s former Denver Meadows mobile park from redevelopment.
“Those were desperate folks, and it breaks your heart to hear what folks are going through,” she said.
Berzins and council member Dave Gruber said the declaration, which is legally called a resolution, wouldn’t solve housing issues in Aurora.
“Resolutions really mean nothing. It’s just a lot of words on a piece of paper,” Berzins said.
Coombs read from the United Nations’ “Right to Adequate Housing” during the meeting. Marcano said Aurora’s declaration would be one of the first of its kind among U.S. cities.
Lawmakers later unanimously approved Council member Curtis Gardner’s proposal to declare April “Second Chance Month” in Aurora.
The resolution would express support for convicted Aurorans who have served their prison time but may still face barriers to employment, education, housing and other “stigmas,” Gardner has said.
“We’re talking about brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, husbands, wives, parents, specifically,” Gardner said Monday. “And so it’s really important to offer redemption to these individuals who want to reenter society, and we’ve made it very difficult for that to happen.”