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.