HARRIS COUNTY, Texas — The Harris County Commissioners Court unanimously approved a $15 million emergency rental assistance program to help individuals in suffering economic hardships due to the effects of COVID-19.
Due to the overwhelming demand for rental assistance in Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and the commissioners subsequently increased the amount of assistance to be provided through this program to $25 million.
“Our community continues to suffer great economic damage resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, with many people unable to cover basic necessities, including rent,” Hidalgo said. “This program will bring relief to those across our region who so desperately need it, allowing families to stay in their homes while addressing the collateral impact on property owners.”
The program will assist residents with rent and other expenses for payments and/or late fees occurring after April 1. Certain applicants will be eligible to receive up to a maximum of $1,200 in assistance.
Landlord enrollment will begin on Aug. 17, with tenant applications opening for a 7-day period beginning Aug. 24.
Applications will be available online at www.harriscountyrenthelp.org, and assistance will be available by phone.
Harris County rental assistance program requirements
To be eligible for assistance through this program, applicants must meet the following requirements:
- Landlord must be registered as a program participant
- Applicant must reside within Harris County. Applicants residing within the City of Houston within Precincts 1 & 2 are eligible. However, City of Houston residents within Precincts 3 & 4 are not eligible for the Harris County program.
- Total household income must be at or below 50% Average Median Income
- Cannot have received other Harris County related COVID-19 assistance or rental assistance through City of Houston COVID-19 rental program
- Applicant cannot be currently receiving other governmental housing subsidies
Landlords who are interested in participating in the program must agree to give the tenant credit for any partial payments they have made so far, waive all late fees and penalties, and rescind or cancel any prior notice to vacate, among other requirements detailed on the program website.
“Right now, many families are facing the impossible choice between paying rent and putting food on the table. We cannot let them end up on the street if they can’t keep up with their rent during an unprecedented economic crisis,” Commissioner Rodney Ellis said. “This program will not only allow for working families to stay in their homes now, but will protect families in the future by providing eviction protections, waiving late fees, and ensuring families receive a 60 day notice to vacate if they fall behind on rent again prior to October 1, 2020. ”
When will rental assistance be dispersed?
After the application process closes on Friday, Aug. 28, eligible applicants will be entered into a lottery for randomized selection. Program funds are limited and only a subset of qualified applicants will receive assistance. The $25 million of assistance provided through this program is expected to help an estimated 21,000 county households struggling with the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This pandemic knows no stranger, and it continues to devastate thousands of hardworking individuals in their ability to earn a living and provide for their families. Our neighbors are struggling to pay their bills, including rent. For that reason, I will not stand by and let the economic fallout from the virus put families on the street and potentially make them homeless,” Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia said. “I am proud that we are putting our CARES funding to work, and I wish the State of Texas would join us to keep families in their homes.”
The program will be administered by BakerRipley who will be responsible for application intake, review and approval of tenant applications, and payment processing. BakerRipley is also administering the City of Houston’s COVID rental assistance program.
“No one wants to see our neighbors evicted from their homes or property owners unable to collect their rents,” Precinct 4 Commissioner R. Jack Cagle said. “Thanks to federal CARES Act funding, we can help avoid that for hundreds of Harris County residents who have fallen on hard times through no fault of their own. I encourage those who need help to apply for it, and we in county government will continue to look for other responsible ways to help.”
During the application window, grant applications can be submitted online 24/7 at www.harriscountyrenthelp.org. Applicants will need valid photo identification, proof of residence within applicable service area (i.e., lease agreement), documentation of lost wages, and a copy of statements showing rental amounts due or a notice to vacate.