Travis County announces impending closure of rental assistance plan one week after applications opened

Travis County is looking to pause its rental assistance program after receiving overwhelming requests. (Community Impact Newspaper file photo)
Travis County is looking to pause its rental assistance program after receiving overwhelming requests. (Community Impact Newspaper file photo)

Travis County is looking to pause its rental assistance program after receiving overwhelming requests. (Community Impact Newspaper file photo)

Editor's note: this story has been updated to include more information released by the county

Travis County is taking steps to close applications for its rental assistance programs one week after it opened due to the high demand.

On March 1, Travis County commissioners approved more than $9 million for emergency rental assistance. The move came as the county’s eviction moratorium ended. State law did not permit the county to extend the moratorium past March 1.

On March 8, Travis County staff told the Commissioners Court that they expected to have more applications than the county could fund shortly and asked commissioners to determine a date to close the applications.

“It is likely we will have more applications that we can fund within weeks, if not days,” said Kirsten Siegfried, the Travis County director of family support services.


Commissioners approved a plan to close applications once 4,500 have been received.

Staff is estimating the county can fund about 3,400 requests, based on the number of requests it was able to fund previously. Each recipient is awarded the past-due balance on their rent or mortgage, so the amount of applicants the $9.2 million can help is dependent on the cost of each claim.

When the program was open from July 2020 to March 2021, it served 3,857 unduplicated households with an average payment of $2,356, costing a total of just over $9 million, according to county data.

The county paused the program Dec. 5 after a wave of requests came in during the holidays. The county shifted additional money into the program to cover the outstanding requests.

Staff expects some of the applications received will not qualify for the assistance.

“We’ll hit 4,000 by tomorrow. We will hit 4,500 by the end of the week,” Siegfried said.

Siegfried said the biggest issue leading to the high demand is a housing crisis.

“What is really happening here is a housing crisis, which has been artificially suppressed with the various eviction moratoriums,” Siegfried said.

Siegfried the county saw a huge number of eviction request in January and February 2020, just before the pandemic hit. She said the county used to see about 100 per month, but it had jumped up to about 800 in those months.

Throughout the pandemic, that number has beens suppressed as the moratorium remained in place, though the number of people facing financial hardship increased.

“If it wasn’t for the pandemic, we would be seeing a huge number of evictions because that is the trend,” Siegfriend said. “This is about the pandemic, but this is really about the cost of housing.”

Sanchez and Siegfried asked that the county widely publicize when the applications will be closed so individuals can get documents submitted. Commissioners gave the communication department direction to begin sharing information around the impending closure starting March 8.
By Darcy Sprague

Editor, Central and Southwest Austin

Darcy joined Community Impact Newspaper in Aug. 2021. Previously, she has covered local news from San Antonio to Dallas and reported nationally on education. Darcy graduated from Texas State University.