Officials say more money needed for rental assistance in Houston

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The fact that $15 million in rental assistance funds from the city of Houston was depleted in less than 90 minutes, "shows how desperate the situation is," said Pastor Matthew Russell of Chapelwood United Methodist Church.

He's been working with local non-profits trying to help families stay in their apartments after jobs were lost during the pandemic.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said he's also asking for more federal money to meet the need.

"Just for the rental assistance program, we would need $150 to $200 million to make a meaningful difference in the lives of people in the city," Turner said.

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He added that an additional $75 million should be set aside for homeowners who are behind on their mortgages because of furloughs or layoffs amid the pandemic.

Meanwhile, there are some other nonprofit options available for those who qualify.

Houston Catholic Charities will begin taking applications for its rental assistance program next week. The applications can be made online. The amount of money available will depend on donations made to the charity.

The Salvation Army expects to help up to 150 clients in its rental assistance program for veterans. Veterans can not have a dishonorable charge from the military, and they must be able to produce a late notice, vacate notice or eviction notice.

The state order, which prohibits evictions, expires this month.

Nonprofits are asking for the order to be extended, but if apartment complexes were purchased through Fannie or Freddie Mac, a federal protection law that provides for 120 days of eviction relief, passed in March.

The relief option does not mean that back rent won't accumulate and go into collections, according to officials.

"Communicating with the landlord or property manager is very important, and given the situation, nine times out of ten, they're going to be gracious and want to help work out an arrangement," said John Boriack with Veritas Equity Management.

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