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The Texas rent relief program will stop taking applications Friday after running out of money

Drivers in Montrose call on Houston to freeze rent, on Friday, May 1, 2020.
Don Geraci
Houston Public Media
Drivers in Montrose call on Houston to freeze rent, on Friday, May 1, 2020.

The statewide rent relief program will stop accepting applications Friday due to dwindling funds.

The nearly $2 billion fund was created using federal pandemic relief money. In a notice posted on the program’s website, the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs said its application portal would close after receiving more requests for assistance than funds available.

Now, those interested in applying must start an application by 5 p.m. Friday, and applicants who have started filling one out have 21 days to complete it. Submitting an application doesn’t automatically mean an applicant will be selected.

The program helps with past and future rent as well as utility and energy bills.

So far, it has doled out more than $1.2 billion to 212,344 households.

Applications that have already been submitted will continue to be processed while funds remain, and applications that have already been submitted will remain on file if more becomes available, the department said.

There have been nearly 50,000 eviction filings in Houston since the beginning of the pandemic, according to the eviction tracker from Princeton University’s Eviction Lab. That’s the third most in the country.

Austin, which issued an eviction moratorium, is near the bottom of the list of large cities with just 1,903 filings.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner has rejected the idea of a moratorium, and only issued a grace period for evictions in February of this year despite calls to do so since early 2020.

The grace period passed city council as a stop-gap measure to give renters time to apply for the city’s joint rent relief program with Harris County, which has so far distributed money to 62,761 families, according to the website.

The city’s grace period expired on March 31. But reporting from Houston public Media found that even while it was in effect landlords filed more than 2,000 evictions and judges heard thousands of cases, even though evictions were supposed to be on hold.

A moratorium from the Centers for Disease Control was also largely ineffective, stopping a small fraction of eviction proceedings in Houston. That moratorium was ultimately blocked by the U.S. Supreme Court in August.
Copyright 2021 Houston Public Media News 88.7. To see more, visit Houston Public Media News 88.7.

Paul DeBenedetto
Katie Watkins