Texas leads US in rent relief disbursal at more than 50% paid out, but hurdles remain

By Dom DiFurio

For Texas renters and landlords struggling amid the ongoing pandemic, rental relief can’t come quickly enough. And the state has now disbursed more than half of its available funds to residents across nearly all Texas counties, according to the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs.

The state agency has paid out $755 million of its $1.3 billion in rental assistance as of this week, benefiting more than 124,000 households. About $40 million in funds have also been approved and are in the process of being paid out to applicants.

“The Texas Rent Relief program has cleared major hurdles, and our strong efforts at outreaching to all Texans have been effective, reaching 92% of Texas counties with relief funds,” TDHCA executive director Bobby Wilkinson said in a statement. “We’ve also partnered with other statewide agencies and organizations such as the Texas Apartment Association and Public Utilities Commission to share information about available assistance and outreach resources to ensure those most at risk of eviction or utility disconnection get the help they need.”

Roughly half of the overall funding remains to be distributed, and TDHCA said the most significant delay in getting funds to renters in need is missing documentation that’s required by federal rules. One-third of the applications currently in the review process are missing some form of documentation from the applicant, the agency says.

The housing agency ramped up its program over the first half of this year after Texas’ February winter storm and issues with contractors caused initial confusion and technical problems for renters and landlords. Since mid-May, it has seen a 650% increase in funds disbursed. TDHCA has brought on more than 1,700 staffers during that time to process applications.

In North Texas, a number of organizations are distributing millions in rental relief at the city and county level. Some relief programs will cover past due rent and utility bills as well as some future bills.

The U.S. Supreme Court lifted the federal ban on evictions last month, putting hundreds of thousands of renters at risk of losing their homes.

More than 170,000 Dallas-Fort Worth households are behind on rent or mortgage payments, and 35% of those households report that eviction or foreclosure is very likely or somewhat likely in the next two months, according to U.S. Census Bureau survey data from the second half of August.

Housing advocates and legal experts in Texas expect a flood of eviction filings in the coming months as landlords are once again able to remove tenants from rental units. As rents soar to record highs and pandemic-era benefits lapse, the displacement from evictions could have an outsized impact on Dallas’ Black and Latino neighborhoods, experts have said.

TDHCA said it is prioritizing applications from tenants whose landlords have filed to evict them. Already, 12,700 applicants have had their evictions diverted through the program, according to the agency.

Just under 30% of all emergency rent assistance funding allocated by the federal government has been paid out to U.S. households, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. The organization has tracked 495 rental assistance programs around the country overseeing the distribution of $25 billion in pandemic-related funding.


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