January 1st update:
On December 21st Congress passed an appropriations and COVID-19 relief bill that includes $25 billion in emergency rental assistance and extends the CDC’s federal eviction moratorium through January 31. The legislation was signed by President Trump on December 27th.
Texas will receive more than $1.9 billion under the legislation according to an estimate from the National Low Income Housing Coalition. Cities and counties with populations above 200,000 will receive a direct allocation from the federal government, while small cities and counties will receive their allocation through the State of Texas. The rental relief provisions of the legislation provide the following:
- Eligibility: To be eligible for the rental assistance, one or more individuals in the household must: (1) be qualified for unemployment benefits or attest in writing that he or she has experienced a reduction in household income, incurred significant costs, or experienced other financial hardship due, directly or indirectly, to the pandemic; (2) demonstrate a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability; and (3) have a household income below 80% AMI. The legislation prioritizes rental assistance for households at 50% of AMI or households with a member who has been unemployed for at least 90 days.
- Length of aid: Renters can qualify for up to 12 months of rental assistance, and depending on availability of funds and local or state rules, an additional 3 months.
- Use of funds: The rental assistance can be applied to back rent as well as future rent up to three months, as well as utility payments.
- Fail-safe provision: Payments can be made directly to landlords or utilities on behalf of renters, but renters must co-sign application and be provided documentation of the payments. If landlords choose not to participate in the rental assistance program, funds can be provided directly to renters to meet their obligations.
The legislation also extends to December 31, 2021, the deadline for states and local jurisdictions to spend their prior allocation of CARES Act funding. Some of this funding (including in Texas) has been used for rental housing assistance for those impacted by the pandemic. Here is the full text of the legislation. Additional information on the legislation is available on the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s website.