The Texas Rent Relief program, administered by the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA), closed its application portal in November 2021 after exhausting $2.5 billion in federal funding for Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA). TDHCA received an additional $48 million in reallocated ERA1 funds to continue to administer rent relief to low-income Texans, but not even this infusion was enough to serve all of the households in the application backlog, let alone re-open the application portal.
In the months since Texas Rent Relief’s closure, many of the state’s local programs – particularly those in large metro areas – have also closed after distributing all available funds. As of publishing, less than 20% of Texas’ low-income renter households live in an area where Emergency Rental Assistance is still available.
ERA Programs in Texas
ERA was an invaluable safety net that kept hundreds of thousands of Texans housed during the pandemic. However, the nearly $4 billion of ERA funds that the State of Texas and 37 localities received from the federal government was not enough to serve all of Texas’ low-income renters in need. As of April 2022, 85.4% of Texas’ ERA funds had been spent, but only about a quarter of the state’s eligible renter households had received ERA.
According to the U.S. Census Household Pulse survey, 14% of all renter households in Texas are behind on their rent and 28% of the households behind on rent reported being in fear of getting evicted in the next month. Eviction data from the Office of Court Administration (OCA) indicate that eviction case filings have been rising in Texas since ERA programs began closing down.
The bottom line is that Texas needs more funding for rental assistance programs to address rising needs post-ERA. The Emergency Rental Assistance program was a monumental step in the direction of housing stability, but further steps need to be taken in order to promote long-term security. It is the responsibility of government to keep low-income community members housed not only through global emergencies like pandemics, but also the individual-level emergencies that are just as potentially devastating which happen on a daily basis. All levels of governments must step in and keep the momentum of ERA going.
- Local governments should supplement their ERA funds with local dollars in order to keep rental assistance programs running as federal funds dry up.
- The State of Texas should delegate the $3 billion of discretionary ARPA funds that are still unspent to Texas Rent Relief. Based on Texas Rent Relief’s previous spending, $3 billion could serve 462,320 households.
- Congress must enact a permanent rental assistance program in order to address a housing crisis that predated the pandemic and ensure long-term solutions at the federal level.
Over the past year, billions of federal, state, and local dollars have been spent on building an infrastructure for distributing rental assistance in Texas. It would be a waste of government resources and a disgrace for the low-income people for whom it has been a lifeline to allow it to disappear.
It makes me sick how TRR ran the qualification process. We qualified & are still qualified & homeless now. You ask why? Well here is the deal, I’m in a Federal Housing Program. The property manager where I lived for 10 consecutive years in the same unit decided to retaliate after I reported her for defrauding the ERA program in my city, by not giving me my lease renewal hard copy that TRR (by their rules) required as part of qualifying. I told TRR for 4 months I COULD NOT GET THE HARD COPY OF THE LEASE. So, rather than adhering to the federal rules of assisting me by checking federal databases to prove my legitimacy, (like verifying my info through HUD to prove my residency and voucher) they just denied my participation outright for not supplying them the requested documentation. So, with nowhere to go and no assistance to relocate they are a part in the circle of agencies who have closed their doors and their ears and eyes to the fact that they were causing more harm than good for some of us in need by enforcing requirements upon us that the President clearly stated not to do. And now after obtaining a Court Judgement to prove I had a lease…Well because I was denied TRR stuck to their guns by not following up to see if I could now qualify during the second round of HUD issued ERA funds. The only thing that will be worse is to finally find out the audited total of mismanaged funds Texas racked up and redirected or gave away to unqualified landlords.
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