Mayor Turner To Propose COVID-19 Rent Relief For Houston

The plan would allocate $15 million for emergency rental assistance. But some housing advocates said that wasn’t enough.

Twitter / Mary Benton
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner at an April 8 press conference Wednesday.

Mayor Sylvester Turner on Tuesday announced a plan to allocate $15 million for emergency rental assistance.

The proposal, which will go in front of the Houston City Council on Wednesday, would pull from $404 million in federal CARES Act funding, intended to be spent on COVID-19 relief. Under the proposed plan, local nonprofit Baker Ripley would run the program by distributing funding to landlords.

But at City Hall on Tuesday, more than a dozen speakers said the plan doesn't do enough.

Rev. Matt Russell, with the advocacy group the Metropolitan Organization, told the mayor that renters need at least 10 times that amount — around $150 million.

"By funding at only $15 million as a down payment, the city will only assist in helping about 13,400 renters once the $750,000 administration fee is taken out," Russell said.

According to the mayor, landlords would apply to participate in the program and agree to waive any late fees, then their tenants could apply for the funding.

The Texas Supreme Court last week extended a temporary freeze on evictions through May 18, providing some relief to renters in financial distress.

But Houston lags behind other Texas cities in providing emergency rent relief funding.

Other Texas cities including Austin and Dallas have taken action by passing grace period ordinances, and have already begun enacting their own programs to provide direct financial assistance to renters.

In Austin, funding was released to residents before rent was due on May 1.

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