Harris County rental relief program leaves out large chunks of the county

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A $25 million dollar rental assistance passed by Harris County Commissioners lasts night will not be available for a large chunk of residents who live in Harris County.

The program, championed by Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia, will use federal CARES dollars to provide up to $1,200 dollars in rental assistance for qualifying families.

"It's just freshly approved as a few hours ago," said Commissioner Garcia, who is estimating the program will be up in running in probably two weeks. "This is now in the works, to be stood up, and what we do know is that BakerRipley will be our community partner, they will be the recipients of our applications and evaluations, and rewards of those applications."

But there is a major caveat.

According to the language in the program, all Harris County residents who live in Precinct 1 and 2 can apply for assistance. However, in Precincts 3 and 4, residents who live within the city of Houston limits will not be eligible for rental assistance. In those precincts, only residents living in the unincorporated areas of Harris County will be able to apply.

That means large areas of southwest, west and northwest Houston renters who may want to apply for the program when it gets up and running will be ineligible. For example, a family living in an apartment complex in Westchase would not be eligible to apply because it is within the Houston city limits. However, a renter on Houston's East End or Sunnyside would be eligible.

Precinct 1 is represented by Commissioner Rodney Ellis, and Precinct 2 is represented by Commissioner Adrian Garcia. Both Democrats

Precinct 3 is represented by Commissioner Steve Radack, who is retiring this year and not running for re-election.

Precinct 4 is represented by Commissioner Jack Cagle. Both are Republicans.

As to why the exemption was made, Commissioner Cagle's staff told ABC13 that residents living within city of Houston limits are eligible for rental relief offered by the City of Houston. The thinking is that since residents who live outside the City of Houston limits could not apply for any rental relief offered by the city, this gives those Harris County residents an opportunity to apply.

Commissioner Steve Radack says he made the decision largely along the same lines. "I wanted to give residents who live in unincorporated Harris County a chance," he said, pointing out residents in the city already had a chance to apply for help. "The city is taking care of the residents of the city and the county is trying to take care of the residents of Harris County."

"I don't make determinations in other precincts," said Garcia, when asked why the distinction was made.

The rental program will be managed by BakerRipley, and will operate similarly to how a city of Houston rental assistance program operated. Both the landlord and the tenant will have to apply. Once a tenant qualifies, the rental assistance will be paid directly to the landlord. The website from which both tenant and landlord can apply is expected to be live in a week or two. ABC13 will keep you updated.
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