Late Wednesday, the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA) announced they will close the application portal for the Texas Rent Relief Program for new applications and additional requests on Friday at 5pm.
Quorum Report was the first to break the news, posting a letter that TDHCA sent to lawmakers and staffers, who have been sharing information about the state’s rent relief program with constituents since it first opened for applications in February. In the letter, TDHCA justified closing the portal by claiming the total amount of requests in new applications and additional funding requests have exceeded the available funding at this time.
At the time of publication, $1.19 billion from the rent relief program has been disbursed and another $108 million has been approved and in process for payment. Remaining in the Texas Rental Relief Program is $640 million. TDHCA told lawmakers that even after the application portal closes, they will “continue to disburse about $680 million in assistance for applications currently under review.”
In a separate letter on Tuesday, TDHCA told lawmakers they were unable to give detailed information on Additional Funding Request applications. They reported some challenges in processing, as it has required their vendor to adjust and reconfigure their systems. TDHCA expects to provide more information after a software upgrade later this week.
Texas Renters in Need
For Texas renters in need of relief, TDHCA says “applicants who started an application prior to the deadline will have 21 days to complete it.” Submitting an application does not guarantee payment. For applicants who have already submitted an application and are in queue, TDHCA will process them until funding runs out and anticipates “to continue to disburse assistance over the next three months”.
TDHCA said if the US Treasury makes available additional funding at a later date, “submitted applications will remain on file and will be reviewed in the order they were received and according to application review priorities.”
Texas renters who would like to be notified of possible future opportunities to apply to the Texas
Rent Relief program can sign up here.
Program Successes and Failures
Despite delays in payments early on and testifying in front of frustrated lawmakers in April, TDHCA was able to quickly disburse rent relief after changing vendors for their online application portal and making some changes to their online design. Texas became one of the fastest states in the country to disburse rent relief, recently the first state to pass $1 billion in disbursement for rent relief and utility assistance. President Joe Biden even cited Texas as a model for other states to follow for quick disbursement of rent relief.
Still, Texans faced problems with the program. Complaints with the program have increased. Landlords receiving rent relief did not guarantee that tenants would not get evicted. There has also been human error leading to payments being sent to the wrong landlord or a lack of notice to the landlord when their tenants applied for relief. All of this is unfolding with a backdrop of a rise in evictions across Texas as the national eviction moratorium ended and Texas is ending its pandemic unemployment assistance early.
Despite over $16 billion in American Rescue Plan (ARP) COVID-19 relief funds being allocated to the state and advocates pleading for its need, the Texas Legislature spent none of it on housing and rent relief in the last special session. Housing advocacy group Texas Housers plans on fighting the state’s appropriations of the ARP telling Spectrum News last week they intend to file a complaint with the U.S. Treasury in the coming weeks.