Austin launches updated emergency rental assistance program for 2021

Photo off the Austin skyline from S. Congress Street
The city of Austin has initiated a third round of financial assistance for area renters affected by the coronavirus pandemic. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)

The city of Austin has initiated a third round of financial assistance for area renters affected by the coronavirus pandemic. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)

The city of Austin opened applications March 15 for a revamped rental assistance program for low-income residents who have been financially impacted by COVID-19. The Relief of Emergency Needs for Tenants assistance program, or RENT, will deliver $25 million in direct support to vulnerable renters, enough to fund around 22,000 months of rent, according to staff from the Housing Authority of the City of Austin.

Funded through federal dollars, Austin’s 2021 RENT program has been streamlined compared to previous iterations for a faster and easier application process, city staff said. Under the new program, tenants and landlords can apply for benefits that may last for up to 15 months, including rent owed from previous months. A new partnership with Austin Energy also allows applicants to be considered for utility assistance without a separate application. Related costs, such as internet and garage rental, are also fair game.

“The RENT program really is your best bet for quick help if you live in the city of Austin,” said Michael Gerber, CEO of the Housing Authority of the City of Austin, at a March 15 news conference.

To qualify, applicants must have a maximum income of 80% of the area median income and must be able to provide evidence of unemployment or increased financial hardship that began during the pandemic. Applicants who have been unemployed for 90 consecutive days and have 30% or less of the local median income will be prioritized first. Qualified applicants will be entered into a drawing for random selections that will occur each Friday afternoon, beginning with the highest-priority applications.

The city first launched its first coronavirus-era rental assistance program in May. which covered $1.2 million in rent for 1,000 households, funded by the city’s housing trust fund. In August, the city launched a second effort with $12.9 million in federal CARES Act funding, which assisted 4,800 households out of the 9,600 who applied. Individuals and families who have already received rental assistance through the 2020 programs may apply again for months in which rental assistance has not already been received.


Austin and Travis County renters are currently protected by a moratorium on most residential evictions that extends through April 1, in tandem with a federal eviction ban. Local officials have expressed concern about the potential for a tidal wave of elections to occur following the expiration of the moratorium.

“I personally believe, and I think others believe, that more resources [will] need to be brought to bear as well to address the needs of those affected—our homeless neighbors, others who are vulnerable, our seniors, people with disabilities, and so many others,” Gerber said.

Applications for the RENT program will remain open through December or until funds are spent. They can be accessed at www.austintexas.gov/rent or 512-488-1397.
By Olivia Aldridge
Olivia is the reporter for Community Impact's Central Austin edition. A graduate of Presbyterian College in upstate South Carolina, Olivia was a reporter and producer at South Carolina Public Radio before joining Community Impact in Austin.


MOST RECENT

The property has been a redevelopment and neighborhood revitalization target for years. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin evaluating 6 plans to redevelop 19-acre St. John site into mixed-use district

The city has long been seeking to rejuvenate the St. John neighborhood property off I-35 with new housing, retail and recreational space.

Students at Norman-Sims Elementary School and Austin ISD's 124 other schools across the district will now be allowed to remove masks during outdoor physical activities with the permission of a parent or guardian. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin ISD makes outdoor masking optional, eases other health, safety restrictions

Students engaging in outdoor physical activity will now have the option to remove masks.

Photo of the Indeed Tower in downtown Austin
Four Central Austin businesses on the move

These Austin businesses are relocating.

Sienna at the Thompson will include 331 apartment rental homes on floors 15 through 31 of the Thompson Hotel, under construction in downtown Austin. (Rendering courtesy Magellan Development Group)
Forthcoming Thompson Hotel in downtown Austin will include apartment rental homes, restaurant from Chicago-based group

Sienna at the Thompson will provide 331 units on floors 15 through 31 of the hotel, while Land and Sea Department will be opening a restaurant on the fourth floor.

House Bill 1024, signed into law May 12, allows restaurants and bars to permanently sell alcoholic beverages to-go. (Courtesy Pexels)
Cocktails to-go are here to stay in Texas: Gov. Greg Abbott signs change into law May 12

Supporters say the change will help restaurants continue to recover from the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Photo of two people preparing vaccine vials
Austin Public Health: herd immunity could be in sight

Around 70% of Travis County residents currently have some antibody protection from COVID-19.

Rendering of a condo building
Luxury condos moving into former HOPE Outdoor Gallery space

The project's developer is partnering with the gallery to preserve and relocate the site's artwork.

Austin's phased process for moving people experiencing homelessness out of unregulated encampments will roll out through the summer. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
City officials detail homeless education and enforcement plan with Proposition B ordinances now in effect

The process that will eventually remove the city's homeless encampment begins this month with outreach and warnings and will stretch until late summer with full enforcement.

Residents will have until May 2023 to obtain a Real ID. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
US Department of Homeland Security extends Real ID deadline until 2023

Drivers will have until May 2023 to get the Real ID, which will be required for adults boarding a U.S. commercial flight.

Susan Bailey was elected president of the American Medical Association in June 2020. (Courtesy American Medical Association)
'I am convinced we will beat COVID': American Medical Association President Susan Bailey discusses vaccine successes, myths, challenges

Bailey was elected president of the American Medical Association in June 2020. Much of the organization's focus during that time has been on vaccine transparency and distribution.