Harris County

Houston-Area Renters Can Apply For Millions In Emergency Rental Assistance

Landlords must enroll with the program before renters can apply for relief.

Renters struggled to access the city's rental assistance portal Wednesday, May 13.

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Harris County and the city of Houston are teaming up to release another round of emergency rent relief funding for renters whose landlords agree to the terms of the program.

Landlords can sign up online from Aug. 17-26, and then renters can apply from Aug. 24-30, if their landlords have enrolled in the program.

The fund is administered by nonprofit BakerRipley, and the application portal can be accessed by clicking here. If a landlord does not sign up for the program, then the renter will not be eligible to receive funding.

According to Baker Ripley, Harris County is providing $25 million, while the city of Houston is providing $15 million, along with another $5 million in private funds. They estimate around 21,000 households, from both the city and county programs, will receive assistance.

Renter applications will be selected starting Aug. 31, with payments to landlords going out after Sept. 8. The program includes a temporary pause on evictions at participating properties through Sept. 30. A household can receive up to $2,112 from the city program, or up to $1,200 from the county program.

The amount of available funding is unlikely to meet demand for emergency aid in the Houston area.

After a similar fund administered by Harris County this summer ran out of money, the county sent out around 480,000 rejection letters. In May, the city's first round of rent relief was distributed first come, first served — and when as many as 30,000 people tried to access the website, the money ran out within 90 minutes, crashing the website.

The city has responded to criticism that the first round favored households with fast internet connections — this time, funding will be awarded based on criteria not speed.

Compared with renters in many other major cities, Houston-area renters are more vulnerable to the threat of eviction during the ongoing public health disaster. Houston — where renters make up half the population — is the largest city in America in which renters don’t have additional emergency legal protections currently in place during the pandemic.

The Texas Supreme Court has not renewed a moratorium that ended in May, Congress has not renewed federal CARES Act protections that expired on July 25, Harris County justices of the peace have declined to order an eviction moratorium, and Mayor Sylvester Turner won’t put forward a grace period to give renters more time to pay their rent, even as members of the city council, and the city and county's own joint task force have pushed to put one in place.

To be eligible for the new round of funding, landlords must sign up by August 26. Renters must apply by August 30.

Which landlords qualify?

  • The unit must be located within the city of Houston to qualify for the city’s funding. For county funding, the unit must be located within Harris County. You can verify the location using a tool on the Baker Ripley website.
  • Landlords must agree to waive all late fees and interest for the month.
  • Landlords must allow for an interest- or penalty-free payment plan for any rent due in excess of $2,112 and any balance in rent through August.
  • Landlords must agree to rescind any prior eviction process, not initiate a new eviction process through August. For the city of Houston program, landlords must refrain from evictions through September 2020. For the Harris County program, landlords must refrain from evictions for a minimum of 60 days from the date of payment.
  • Landlords must agree to enter into a payment agreement with tenants.

Which renters qualify?

  • A renter's landlord must be enrolled as a participating landlord.
  • Renters must have unpaid rent from April-August.
  • The income requirement is different for city and county funding. To receive funding from the city, prior to April 2020, household income must have been less than 80% of area median income, or the renter must currently be participating in programs including Medicaid, SNAP, or SSI. To receive funding from the county, household income must be less than 50% of area median income, and the household may not have received other Harris County COVID-19 related assistance.
  • Renters only qualify if they cannot pay rent due specifically to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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