HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The city of Houston and Harris County's rental relief programs have been combined into one portal in an effort to make it easier for those needing help to apply.
On Monday, landlords could begin to enroll in the program. On Aug. 24, the portal for tenants will be open. It's important to note that only renters whose landlords apply to be part of the program will be able to get rental relief. Both landlords and renters have to be willing participants.
The program is expected to help pay rent and other expenses for payments or late fees occurring after April 1, 2020. There's a total of $45 million available. Of that total, $20 million is for the city of Houston and $25 million is for Harris County.
In the city of Houston, tenants could receive up to $2,112 in assistance. In Harris County, residents could receive up to $1,200. The programs are based on need, and not on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Both the city and county programs will require a "buy-in" from landlords, where they agree not to evict residents if they take government help.
"For the landlords and tenants, they can expect a simplified process where they enroll in one website, one process, and tenants apply, and we route to one funding stream," said Rene Solis of BakerRipley.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner held a briefing Monday to talk about the launch of the program as well as a small business economic relief program.
"[The landlords] must agree to wave all late fees and interest, refrain from evictions through September 2020, [and] enter into a payment plan with their tenants through November the first," said Turner, who said this is a way to maximize their efforts. "We're leveraging our dollars to go even further. Even more people will receive the benefit and then they're agreeing not to evict anyone through the month of September."
During the past few weeks, both the Houston City Council and Harris County Commissioners Court have passed significant rental relief programs. Both government entities contracted with BakerRipley, a Houston non-profit, to manage the relief program.
"This is going to be needs-related to see what is the need for the household, and to really view who are the ones that need it the most," said Cristina Cave with BakerRipley.
It helps both landlords and tenants.
"[Regarding] the landlords, we want tenants in their homes, and we're doing everything that we can but we need help," said president of the Houston Apartment Association, Clay Hicks.
Solis suggests for tenants behind on rent, now is a good time to start talking to their landlords, and encourage them to apply for the program, especially now that the portal is open for landlords.
As for tenants, the website provides guidelines on documents you will need to prepare to apply for the rental help.
Families who make up to 80% of the area median income can apply. For a family of four, that's approximately $63,000 a year in income or below. The assistance programs will not be a first come, first serve basis. Rather, it will match up qualifying landlords and tenants, with the goal of helping the most needy families first.
Besides Houston and Harris County, surrounding counties also offer rental programs. They are listed below.
Galveston County's Short-Term Tenant-Based Rental Assistance Program.
Montgomery County's CARES Act COVID-19 Funding.
Fort Bend County's Rental, Mortgage & Utility Assistance Program.
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