HOUSTON — A second assistance program is going to be available for Houston renters who are struggling to keep up with their payments during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Houston's City Council on Wednesday approved a $20 million rental assistance program with $15 million coming from the city's CARES Act funding and $5 million, up from the previously reported $4 million, coming from private donations.
The mayor's announcement about the second round of help came last week on the same day millions of Americans lost their extra $600 weekly unemployment benefit from the CARES Act.
The money will help renters that don’t qualify for federal relief dollars and cover legal assistance.
Baker Ripley will once again administer the program.
The mayor said this will help thousands more families on top of the 13,000 helped during their first rental relief program in May.
The funding will not be allocated on a first come, first serve basis.
“There is a tremendous need in our city,” Turner said Wednesday.
Turner said the funds will be committed based upon vulnerability prioritization.
This means those who are paying the lowest amount of rent will be serviced first since those residents will likely have nowhere left to turn if they are evicted.
“We want to make sure people do not find themselves on the streets,” Turner said.
The money will be going directly to the landlords.
The landlords who are participating in the program have agreed:
- To waive late fees for that month
- To allow for an interest-free and penalty-free payment plan for any rent that is due in excess of $2,112
- To refrain from initiating any eviction process and rescind any prior eviction process
- To refrain from any evictions through September 2020
Landlords also agreed to that if one tenant qualifies for the rental relief program then none of the tenants of their complex will face eviction through September 2020.
If you have a lease, you qualify for this second relief program. Some of the funding will be set aside for people who didn't quality for help from the CARES Act.
Undocumented immigrants will also be eligible for relief under this second program.
The program also provides funding for Lone Star Legal Aid to help renters.
"We want to keep people in their homes," Turner said last week.
The mayor is asking justices of the peace to be thoughtful in this time when it comes to eviction notices.
The first program was provided in May. The $15 million meant to help Houstonians pay rent was gone in less than 90 minutes.
"If we had kept it open there would have been thousands more who would have applied, we had to cut it off because there was no money there," Turner said at the time.
At the time, the City of Houston Housing Department acknowledged the funding was nowhere near enough to meet the need of all Houstonians.
The CARES Act offered a program putting a temporary moratorium on evictions for most residents of federally subsidized apartments. It was offered to Americans in residences supported by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Agriculture or the Department of Treasury. The program was only set to last 120 days after enacted, which means it ended Saturday, July 25, 2020.