HOUSTON - New help for people facing eviction, as the CDC eviction moratorium continues to face legal challenges in courts. The Houston/Harris County Emergency Rent Relief Program is putting money toward a new Eviction Intervention Program.
Houston continues to have the second-highest eviction rate in the country. Several federal courts have now ruled the CDC eviction moratorium is unconstitutional.
But administrators of the Houston Harris County Emergency Rent Relief Program still have about $89 million of its original $159 million available. $8 million is now being used for a new Eviction Intervention Program.
"I got into a depression, honestly," said Janell Ivy, a single mother of four children, ages 7, 6, 4, and 2.
With no job and no unemployment benefits coming in, Ivy was facing eviction.
"We're going to be homeless soon. You have to think about that as a mother of four. That's hard and I have to stay strong for my babies," said Ivy.
But in court, the judge referred her to the new Eviction Intervention Program, run by the non-profit, The Alliance. Six months of rent was paid and her eviction was halted.
"When I got that final good news that it had been paid, I just thanked the Lord, because now my kids and I still have a place to stay," said Ivy.
Through the program, the Alliance contacts tenats and landlords that have been assigned docket case numbers in eviction court, or they can apply on their own.
"We help coordinate the communication between landlord and tenant and work with the court. And quickly, if everybody agrees to a resolution, which can be paying up to 6 months, a minimum of one month forward," explained The Alliance CEO, Daniel Stoecker.
To qualify, tenants cannot earn more than 80% of the area's median income and must show their finances were hurt by the pandemic.
"We find most landlords, once it's explained and how simple it is, and what we want to do, they're very open to it," said Stoecker.
Once the rent is paid, the judge halts the eviction and can decide whether to remove the eviction lawsuit from the tenant's record.
For tenants not in eviction court yet or outside the Houston/Harris County area, Stoecker says The Alliance refers them to other available assistance.
"If for some reason you're not able to get help here, we can connect you with other resources to get you help," said Stoecker.
The stability allowed Ivy to take the next step forward.
"Actually, it's the praise report because I just got called for a job today. So I actually start working tomorrow," Ivy said proudly.
Tenants and landlords can still apply for up to a year of rental assistance through the Houston Harris County Emergency Rental Assistance Program or check the status of their application online. Those in eviction court don't need to reapply, just add their court docket number to the application. A phone line is available at 832-402-7568 six days a week: Monday–Friday 9 a.m.–6 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m.–2 p.m.
Those outside the Houston/Harris County area can call 211, the United Way Helpline for assistance.
Administrators say the HHCERAP has given out $70 million in rental assistance so far, helping more than 19,000 families. It has received 51,000 applications with 39,000 of those currently being processed.
This chart shows the Area Median Income defined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for the Houston metro area.
Household Size, Monthly Income, Annual Income
1 $3,679 $44,150
2 $4,204 $50,450
3 $4,729 $56,750
4 $5,254 $63,050
5 $5,675 $68,100
6 $6,095 $73,150
7 $6,516 $76,200
8 $6,937 $83,250