$159 million in rental relief opens for Houston, Harris County renters in need

HOUSTON – Renters in Houston and Harris County who are struggling to make ends meet because of the COVID-19 pandemic can begin applying for assistance on Thursday.

This latest round of rental assistance totals $159 million. BakerRipley and Catholic Charities will administer the program.

“This program will bring much-needed relief for those tenants who are due to pay rent,” said Cristina Cave, community relations manager for BakerRipley. “This will go back to April of last year. It will cover rent up to present.”

She said the program is for renters in the city or county who have been financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and are behind on rent or facing eviction.

Bart Ferrel, COO of Catholic Charities, echoed Caves’ point.

“This program is designed to really help the poorest of the poor at the lowest income levels, those that are hurting the most, so we really hope to get that help out there,” Ferrell said. “Our phones are ringing every day for people looking for help. Obviously, there’s been a lot of resources put out there since the beginning of the pandemic, but more are needed and this $159 million is going to go a long way to getting folks, keeping them in their houses, keeping families together and keep our community moving forward.”

Applicants will need to show proof and there are some income limits.

“An average for a family of four is a little over $63,000 of annual income,” said Cave, who provided an example of the income limits.

The program can also cover some past-due utilities.

“We will be addressing first those tenants that need it the most,” Cave said.

Cave said priority will be given to people who are low income or have been unemployed for at least 90 days.

Two years ago, a bad wreck left Pamela Stelly disabled and forced her to retire from teaching. Stelly said her pension is barely enough to live on but is too much for her to receive public assistance.

“This will be a leap forward for myself and my family. Thank you, God. Thank you, Jesus. Because without this assistance, people like me will never be able to catch up,” Stelly said.

The program is not first-come, first-serve and is expected to stay open for several months.

You can find out more information and apply online at HoustonHarrisHelp.org.

In addition, a special phone line will open Thursday to take questions and provide applicants with the status of their applications. The number is 832-402-7568.

As the eviction crisis deepens, today advocates went door to door, handing out flyers to inform tenants about their legal rights and invite them to an event where they can get legal advice.

“This event on Saturday will provide them with the information they need to stay in their homes and stay safe in this really difficult time we are living through,” said Jay Malone, Texas Gulf Coast Area Labor Foundation.