Houston's $15 million rental assistance program depleted in 90 minutes after applications open

Because of high demand in the first hour after going live, the city of Houston's rental assistance website greeted some visitors with error messages. (Staff screenshots)
Because of high demand in the first hour after going live, the city of Houston's rental assistance website greeted some visitors with error messages. (Staff screenshots)

Because of high demand in the first hour after going live, the city of Houston's rental assistance website greeted some visitors with error messages. (Staff screenshots)

Over 30,000 people were awaiting the application portal for Houston’s rental assistance program before it opened at 10 a.m. May 13, Mayor Sylvester Turner said.

The city was only able to accept the first 12,000, which it reached within the first 90 minutes of the application going live.

Many users received error messages and delays during the first hour the applications were open because of the high demand.

The program, formed using $15 million out of Houston’s $404 million allocation of federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security funding, offered to pay up to $1,056 to tenants behind on April or May rent.

In an afternoon briefing, Houston Housing Director Tom McCasland said that the site processed 12,000 requests from tenants and payments will be processed in the next two weeks.


The Metropolitan Organization of Houston, a faith-based organizing group, said an estimated $100 million could be needed to address 70,000 renters in need across the city.

The organization gathered those interested in applying and faced difficulties with the high volume or users on the website.








Turner said the high number of people applying for the program indicated that an additional relief program will be needed, however he has not committed any additional CARES act funding toward it.

Out of the $404 million the city has already received, about $200 million was dedicated to providing more testing and hiring new contact tracers, and $15 million was set aside for rental assistance. Turner said the remaining funds may be needed for bulk orders of PPE and for paying police and firefighters responding to coronavirus-related issues.

“We know the need far exceeds the resources, which is all the more reason to advocate for more on the congressional level,” he said.
By Emma Whalen
Emma is Community Impact Newspaper's Houston City Hall reporter. Previously, she covered public health, education and features for several Austin-area publications. A Boston native, she is a former student athlete and alumna of The University of Texas at Austin.


MOST RECENT

The budget amendment came after an hour-long debate over how far the district could dip into its reserve funding to cover the raise. (Community Impact staff)
HISD approves $2,500 pay raise for teachers with another bump possibly coming in August

The budget amendment came after an hour-long debate over how far the district could dip into its reserve funding to cover the raise.

Taco Bueno sells tacos, burritos, quesadillas, nachos and more unique items, including the Muchaco, a taco made with a soft pita-like shell. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Taco Bueno coming to Katy and more Houston-area news

Read the latest business and community news from the Houston area.

The property at 7620 Washington Ave.—formerly a brick and construction material supply business—includes a 12,595-square-foot showroom and a 19,250-square-foot warehouse. (Courtesy Henry S. Miller Companies)
Grubbs Automotive leases space on Washington Avenue with plans for Volvo dealership

The property at 7620 Washington Ave.—formerly a brick and construction material supply business—includes a 12,595-square-foot showroom and a 19,250-square-foot warehouse.

The new location of FM Kitchen & Bar, slated to open later in June, will offer a selection of signature and classic cocktails, including the cosmopolitan. (Courtesy FM Kitchen & Bar)
FM Kitchen & Bar to open second location on Westheimer Road and 4 other restaurant announcements around Montrose, the Heights

A slate of new bars and restaurants has been announced for the area, and several others opened earlier this month.

Intuitive Machines is based in Clear Lake. (Jake Magee/Community Impact Newspaper)
Intuitive Machines expanding in Houston Spaceport

Houston officials have announced yet another development coming to the Houston Spaceport.

Economist Elliot Eisenberg spoke about the economic recovery post-pandemic, saying this year's GDP growth will be the best since the 1950s. (Brooke Ontiveros/Community Impact Newspaper)
Economist explains housing demand, price booms in Texas, Greater Houston area

Eisenberg explained why home prices are rising at a June 9 Greater Houston Builders Association luncheon.

I-45 Houston
Houston extends pilot period for freeway crash towing program

A pilot program that aims to reduce wait times for towing after freeway accidents got an extension June 9.

Volunteers at Kids Meals Inc. in the Garden Oaks area help put together meals and grocery bags for families in need. (Courtesy Kids Meals Inc.)
Kids Meals Inc. launches capital campaign to build new facility, cater to increasing demand

The Garden Oaks-based nonprofit more than doubled the number of children it served per day during the coronavirus pandemic, and officials are looking to boost those numbers even higher.

Officials with the Harris County Justice Administration Department said they identified racial disparities in citations and use of force by law enforcement, among other areas. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Harris County identifies racial disparities in use of force, citations from law enforcement agencies

Analysis in the report included racial demographics in instances of consent search, contraband discovery, traffic stops that led to arrests, types of citations or warnings, and use of force.

Single-family home sales in the Houston area surged 48.2% percent compared to May 2020, when real estate was in the process of recovering from coronavirus-related lockdowns. (Courtesy Houston Association of Realtors)
Houston-area home sales in May up nearly 50% versus last year

Single-family home sales were up 48.2% compared to a year ago, with 9,702 units sold versus 6,546 a year earlier.

Mixed media portrait artist highlights health care workers

Kristin Nelson was inspired by her sister-in-law and her neighbor, both nurses, who had previously sent her selfies of them decked out in PPE.