No longer first-come, first-serve: Houston's $20M rent relief package passes

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A $20 million rental relief package that intends to help Houstonians most at risk of eviction unanimously passed a vote with city council Wednesday.

Last week, Mayor Sylvester Turner unveiled the city's second rent assistance program over the course of the coronavirus pandemic. Of the funds, $15 million will come from the federal CARES Act, but the remainder comprises of private donations and other allocations.

The private dollars are significant because renters who are undocumented immigrants would be able to apply for those funds. The federal funds, in comparison, did not allow that.

"There's so much more that's needed. This is just one of the pieces," Mayor Sylvester Turner said.

Turner also promised the latest relief program would be based on a matrix that would give preference to those with lower incomes. The first program that rolled out in May was first-come, first-served.

Nonprofit community developer BakerRipley, which administered the first round of relief, is expected to dole out the funds this time around as well.

Now, with the passage, BakerRipley is expected to set up a website to apply for the new program. Once they finalize contracts and details with landlords, they'll launch the site and phone number.

The Houston Apartment Association says it's happy about the new allocation.

"So many of our residents have been out of work since March and need assistance so badly - so any assistance that can get passed and pull through for our residents is a huge help to us, because we're working so hard with solutions to keep them in their homes as long as possible. So, this really helps," HAA President-elect John Boriack said.

What the first Houston pandemic rent relief program entailed

Under the first program, renters had to live within Houston city limits to be eligible for up to $1,056 per month. Landlords and tenants were required to sign up.

The first program was designed to help about 8,000 families.

Houston initial rental assistance program enrollment suspended after 90 minutes

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At point, 30,000 people were on website seeking rent relief.

Man faced eviction 2 months after getting approved for rental assistance
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Two months passed by after Erwin Roosevelt got approved for rental assistance and he feared he was nearing eviction.

Harris County rental relief program leaves out large chunks of the county
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There's $25 million in rent relief available but you have to live in the right areas to qualify.

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