Houston OKs $20M in rent relief with provision to delay evictions

Another $20 million in relief will be available soon for Houston residents struggling to pay rent. (Community Impact staff)
Another $20 million in relief will be available soon for Houston residents struggling to pay rent. (Community Impact staff)

Another $20 million in relief will be available soon for Houston residents struggling to pay rent. (Community Impact staff)

Houston City Council has approved a new infusion of federal coronavirus aid and private donations to offer up to $20 million in rent relief, an expansion of a $15 million program in May that now includes a provision requiring participating landlords to delay evictions through September.

Applicants will be prioritized based on a vulnerability scale, based in part on the income status and level of rent being paid, Mayor Sylvester Turner said.

"There's no place for them to go but the street because they're already paying at the lowest rate," Turner told City Council members Aug. 5 before the vote to launch the program.

However, Turner stopped short of calling for a citywide rent grace period, despite calls from the Housing Stability Task Force to adopt one.

"If you simply impose any sort of grace period, it does not remove the financial liability," Turner said. "I've taken a look at other places like New York. ... They acknowledge, when their grace period comes to an end, they are facing a tsunami of a situation where the financial obligation has not been eliminated."

Instead, the program adds a requirement that participating landlords refrain from evictions through September and waive interest and late fees for all tenants, Turner said. Funds will be sent directly to landlords on behalf of an eligible recipient, who can receive up to $2,112 to pay back one or more months of rent. An estimated 3,700 landlords participated in the previous program.

"We anticipate having a large number apply this time as well," Turner said.

The landlords must follow the guidelines for all tenants even if only one receives aid through the program. They will also be required to implement payment plans.

Another $500,000 is being allocated to Lone Star Legal Aid to offset costs for assisting any tenants.

The Houston Endowment, the Greater Houston Community Foundation Relief Fund, the Kinder Foundation and Janice McNair were credited for donating funds.

"I'm glad that we're doing this. ... Obviously we have too much need and not enough funds," City Council Member Greg Travis said.

Turner said the program will open for applications once it finalizes a partnership with BakerRipley to administer it.
By Matt Dulin
Matt joined Community Impact Newspaper in January 2018 and is the City Editor for Houston's Inner Loop editions.


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