Rents in Denver have risen by 47 percent since 2010. Meanwhile, wages are up only 6 percent.
DENVER – This spring, Patty Leidy’s rent increased from $800 to $1400 — overnight.
Leidy, 55, works as a retail manager at a Denver art store, earning $1,500 per month before taxes. The abrupt rent hike forced her to leave her apartment at the end of May after 13 years living there. She has moved in with her 85-year-old mother and is searching for a higher paying job.
Living with her mother was a last resort, but a move she had to make due to the lack of housing options within her budget. She is grateful she had somewhere to land, but feels out of her element and disoriented at her mom’s tiny apartment.
Leidy got word of the rent increase in a letter dated April 1, 2016. “I read it and thought, ‘my life was over as I knew it,’” she said. She had 15 days to decide whether to stay, knowing that her income was not nearly enough to cover the $600 rent hike.
A cartoonist and comic artist as well as a painter, Leidy supplements her income by selling her artwork, but has not able to make any art since she got word of the rent increase. “Everything is in storage, except clothes and a few art supplies,” Leidy said. “I’m not painting right now — there’s no space.”
Denver’s increasingly expensive real estate market is disproportionately affecting the city’s most financially vulnerable residents, including artists, Leidy said. “We’re living to work now, not working to live,” she said.
Leidy lived in her apartment in Denver’s Hilltop neighborhood for since 2003. Her rent had remained relatively stable in recent years. But last Christmas, her landlords sent tenants a letter saying they were considering selling the building. By February, she had received a notice saying the building had been sold. At that point, a rent hike seemed inevitable.
By early May, Leidy was frantically packing, selling the majority of her belongings and desperately searching the area for any apartments in her price range.
She found nothing. Leidy still looks daily, but hasn’t yet found a place to live on her own.
The move has negatively affected her health and work, exacerbating an existing anxiety disorder, she said. “I’m always looking for an apartment, and that makes the anxiety worse,” she said.
In early May, before she left her apartment for good, Leidy’s studio was still intact. It contained an easel, playfully etched drawings, and her computer editing setup. Tables and shelf space were littered with books, miniatures and toys.
Her supplies are now sold or packed into a $225 per month storage unit.
Leaving her home after so many years felt wrong. “I’ve been here for a really long time, and I intended to stay,” she said.