Landlords are racing to take advantage of the City of Houston’s new rental relief program, which aims to help thousands of renters facing financial hardship because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The program’s website, houstonrentassistance.org, launched at 10 a.m. Thursday. Five hours later, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said about 2,700 landlords from across the city already had registered to participate.
The Houston City Council voted Wednesday to approve the COVID-19 Rental Assistance Program, which according to the city will provide a total of about $15 million so more than 6,800 households can pay rent for the months of April and May. The funds are being provided through the federal CARES Act and administered by local nonprofit BakerRipley.
“There has been a huge response from landlords and residential owners in the City of Houston,” Turner said. “I’m pleased with the movement that’s taking place on that program.”
According to the city, landlords who agree to participate in the program must adhere to the following terms:
- Waive all late fees, penalties, and interest for April and May
- Allow tenants to enter a payment plan for any rent due in excess of $1,056
- Rescind any prior notice to vacate and halt any prior eviction proceedings for the two months
Tenants at participating properties can apply for help at houstonrentassistance.org beginning at 10 a.m. Thursday, May 13. They are eligible to receive up to $1,056 per month in rent for April and May if they 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
- Affirm that their inability to pay is due to financial hardship resulting from the economic impact of COVID-19
- Have income less than 80 percent of the area median income (approximately $44,000 for one person or $63,000 for a family of four) or qualify for one of the programs listed in the application (including Medicaid, WIC, SNAP, Head Start and VA Pension)
If landlords and their tenants are approved for the program by BakerRipley, monthly rent payments for April and May will be paid directly to the landlords on behalf of the tenants.
“Many of the nearly 1 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,” Clay Hicks, president of the Houston Apartment Association, said in a news release from the city. “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.”