Houston to consider new $15 million round of rent relief; advocates continue to call for grace period

Houston City Hall aerial view
Houston City Council will consider a second round of $15 million rent relief Aug. 5. (Courtesy Visit Houston)

Houston City Council will consider a second round of $15 million rent relief Aug. 5. (Courtesy Visit Houston)

Houston renters could become eligible for a second round of rental relief funds in August.

City Council is set to vote on a $15 million allocation of Houston’s federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES, Act funding Aug. 5.

Similar to the previous round of rent relief, funding will be distributed through BakerRipley. Landlords will apply for qualification first, and then, applications for tenants will open the following week. Dates for the application period will be scheduled after council votes on the proposal. The amount of aid supplied to renters will also be determined after the vote, according to council's agenda.

Harris County also announced a second $10 million boost to its rental relief fund July 29.

During the previous round, tenants could receive assistance for up to two months of missed rent. When applications opened to tenants for the first round of relief May 13, the fund was depleted within 90 minutes.

With demand remaining high and federal and state restrictions of evictions expiring, housing advocates have been calling for additional protections.

A joint Houston-Harris County housing stability task force with members representing tenants' and landlords' interests unanimously signed a letter calling for a 60-day grace period for renters to make up missed payments. Mayor Sylvester Turner has repeatedly rejected such calls and has not put the ordinance on council’s agenda in the two weeks since it was endorsed by the task force.

“Let's say someone owes $1,000. If you put in place a grace period with no additional support, in two to three months, instead of owing $1,000, they owe $3,000," Turner told reporters July 29. "You don't want to dig a deeper hole."

Proponents of the grace period, who have been calling for greater protection since the early stages of the pandemic, have noted that similar ordinances have been enacted in cities across Texas, and in some states, they existed as a standard tenant protection even before the coronavirus pandemic began.

“We’re thankful they’re taking action, but we need a holistic approach to protect renters,” said Jay Malone, political director of the Gulf Coast AFL-CIO. “We already had members who were sleeping in their cars, and unfortunately, there will be more in the next few weeks.”
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.


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