Harris Co. joins Houston to establish rental and mortgage assistance program

By R. Hans Miller | News Editor
Posted 2/16/21

Harris County has joined with the city of Houston to establish a $159 million rental assistance program dubbed the Houston-Harris County Emergency Rental Assistance Program. The program will focus on …

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Harris Co. joins Houston to establish rental and mortgage assistance program

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Harris County has joined with the city of Houston to establish a $159 million rental assistance program dubbed the Houston-Harris County Emergency Rental Assistance Program. The program will focus on past-due rent, some past-due utilities and future rent payments for those economically impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Houston-Harris County Emergency Rental Assistance Program offers a critical lifeline to scores of residents facing economic hardship through no fault of their own, offering hope that they might emerge from this crisis with their households intact,” said Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo.

Hidalgo said many hard-working families throughout the county have been impacted by the pandemic’s devastating effects on the economy and the new assistance program will ensure residents facing hard times are ready to get back to work and contributing to the economy as soon as the anticipated economic rebound arrives.

Landlords may enroll in the program beginning this week and it is anticipated that renters will be able to apply for assistance by the end of February, a press release said. Applications will be serviced through www.HoustonHarrisHelp.org, which will service both landlords and tenants. Per U.S. Treasury guidelines, most payments will be made directly to landlords instead of tenants in order to reduce the wait times for past-due rent to be paid. Landlords will be required to credit renters’ accounts within five business days, cease eviction proceedings and late fees in addition to dropping all legal action against the tenants.

“This rental assistance program represents a smart, responsible, and compassionate investment in our collective prosperity,” Hidalgo said.

The program will be run by BakerRipley and Catholic Charities which ran a similar program last year, beginning in June and were selected, in part, because of their emergency management experience. Supplemental agencies will be pulled into the effort to help families apply and ensure underserved populations are informed about the program. Any Harris County renter can submit an application, provided funds are paid directly to landlords.

Renters who applied in the fall of 2021 but were not selected will need to update their applications and will be included in the application pool. For those who do not qualify or are in need of immediate assistance, it is recommended they dial 2-1-1 (open 24 hours a day) and operators will help them connect to assistance services as appropriate.

Houston mayor Sylvester Turner said the program was necessary to help thousands in the county and city of Houston who had been severely impacted by the economic side effects of the pandemic.

“The economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has decimated thousands of people and made it difficult for hard-working families across our region to pay rent,” Turner said.  “The City-County partnership with BakerRipley and Catholic Charities demonstrates how critical a coordinated collective response is to helping our neighbors.  Our current state demands we align our efforts and leverage our resources and expertise to better support the growing needs of our community.”

Editor's Note: Fort Bend County is also expected to announce some sort of rental/mortgage assistance program. However, due to inclement weather, that county's announcement has been postponed. Keep an eye on KatyTimes.com for information as it becomes available. 

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