HOUSTON - The rent is due again tomorrow. If you're struggling to pay rent, the deadline has been extended to Wednesday and the amount of rental assistance for Houston and Harris County has been increased.
Harris County Commissioners increased rental assistance from $25 million to $40 million. Add that to the rental assistance from the City of Houston and donors of $20 million, and that brings the combined pot to $60 million.
Harris County is also increasing the maximum benefit per household from $1,200 to $1,900, approaching Houston's $2,112.
"What we tell everybody is if you come to us and work with us, we'll work with you. So we've had lots of people that have come to us," said Steve Moore, Co-founder of Villa Serena Communities.
His company owns more than 6,000 apartments in greater Houston. Moore says the lack of rent being paid is making it tough to run the apartments, but they are working with tenants.
"No one wants to kick out a renter because the owner is left with a vacant apartment," said Moore, saying evictions in his units have averaged the same as during normal times, about one percent per month.
BakerRipley, the organization dispursing the assistance, says 10,000 landlords have signed up for the rental assistance since the application period opened two weeks ago.
"This is great for tenants because some of them may have had increasing debt throughout the months, and maybe they have owed a little bit of payment one month, but the debt keeps increasing," said Cris Cave with BakerRipley.
Landlords must sign up first and agree to terms for all their tenants.
Explained Cave, "They agree to help tenants in other ways like waiving late fees, interest in any eviction process if it's for Harris County. They also have to provide a ten percent discount."
The tenants' household income must be below 80% of the area median income. The aid will be paid to the landlords and is expected to help more than 30,000 tenants.
Moore says he's signed up some of his properties, but can't agree to the terms for all of them.
He says rental assistance helps, but government aid paid directly to consumers has helped more.
"What was significant was the money from D.C. That was significant. They provided people with unemployment, supplemental unemployment, and that's what kept people afloat," said Moore.
Harris County Commissioner Adrian Garcia, who led the call for more rental assistance, said in a statement, "We in Harris County are stepping up to flatten the eviction curve, however despite this increased investment, we know not everyone will be able to get this much-needed lifeline. We invite the state of Texas to get involved in programs like ours."
Landlords and tenants can apply through Wednesday, September 2 at BakerRipleyrenthelp.org or call (713) 957-4357 or (281) 272-6478. Cave says BakerRipley will start notifying approved applicants on September 8 and make payments shortly thereafter.