This past week, the Houston City Council approved a much-needed $15 million rental relief program, in order to assist vulnerable residents across the Houston area with being able to make their rental payments and avoid being evicted, primarily as they have been impacted by this unprecedented COVID-19 public health crisis.
The $15 million for the program is coming through the federal CARES Act and will be administered by the local nonprofit BakerRipley, who is the City of Houston’s partner in this endeavor.
“The program provides much-needed assistance for our residents. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected constituents economically, forcing many to make tough choices,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner. “While this rent relief fund will help thousands of people, we know thousands more will need help. We are trying to do as much as we can with the little that we have.”
In a statement released by African American Councilmembers Tiffany D. Thomas (District F); Edward Pollard (District J); Dr. Carolyn Evans-Shabbaz (District D); Martha Castex-Tatum (District K) and Dr. Letitia Plummer (At-Large Position 4), they state that:
“It is imperative that we ensure those who are most in need are aware of this program and apply to receive the aid while it is available – acknowledging Black Houstonians make up a large percentage of renters in the city of Houston.”
Here are the details of the program.
This past Thursday, May 7th, landlords were able to begin enrolling on the program’s website. The portal will officially open for tenants to begin enrolling on Thursday, May 13.
Landlords who agree to participate in the program will need to agree to certain terms, such as:
- Waiving all late fees, penalties, and interest for the two months.
- Allowing tenants to enter a payment plan for any rent due in excess of $1,056.
- Rescinding any prior notice to vacate and halt any prior eviction proceedings for the two months.
- Tenants who are seeking assistance through the program must meet the following requirements:
- Live inside the city of Houston
- Be late on residential rental payments for either or both the months of April and May
- Be current on their rent for all months prior to April 2020
- Affirm that their inability to pay is due to financial hardship resulting from the economic impact of COVID-19
- Have income less than 80% of the Area Median Income (approximately $40,000 for one person or $60,000 for a family of four) or qualify for one of the programs listed in the application (e.g. Medicaid, WIC, SNAP, Head Start, or VA Pension)
BakerRipley will provide up to $1,056 of rental assistance per month to qualified low-to-moderate income people who could not pay their April and/or May rent.
“BakerRipley is honored to continue our mission, with the City’s committed support, to meet the needs of some of our most vulnerable communities,” said Claudia Aguirre, BakerRipley President and CEO. “The BakerRipley Rental Assistance Program is a critical program for many neighbors who struggled before this crisis and have seen those struggles exacerbated in the face of COVID-19. Recovery starts now. It starts with each individual and organization across this region, doing their part to keep this city a welcoming center of opportunity. Thank you, Mayor Turner, for your continued leadership and work on behalf of this amazing and resilient City.”
The Houston Apartment Association estimates the rent relief program will help thousands of workers who have been laid off because of business closures.
“On behalf of our members, our staff, and especially our residents, I want to thank Mayor Turner and council members for their leadership in creating this vital program,” said Clay Hicks, Houston Apartment Association president. “Many of the nearly one million Houstonians who live in apartments have been unable to work – some since mid-March. This rental assistance program will help thousands of Houston apartment residents get caught up with April and May rent. And, in turn, it will help apartment properties to maintain thousands of jobs, including the maintenance workers that keep our properties running, and pay their property taxes that fund our schoolteachers, police officers, and firefighters.”
This program is anticipated to fund a minimum of approximately 13,636 rental months and assist a minimum of approximately 6,818 households. Apartments, duplexes, and single-family renters-landlords qualify for this program.
Landlords and tenants are able to apply for COVID-19 rental assistance relief via the online portal at www.houstonrentassistance.org.