Austin City Council to vote to approve an additional $3.2M in assistance for applicants who applied in 2020
Austin, TX – The City of Austin and the Housing Authority of the City of Austin (HACA) celebrate a milestone related to the Relief of Emergency Needs for Tenants (RENT) Assistance Program by successfully deploying all $12.9 million in rental relief before the December 30, 2020 federal deadline. These dollars, a portion of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds, assisted more than 4,300 Austin families who were financially impacted by COVID-19. Austin City Council will vote January 27, 2021, on staff’s recommendation to allocate an additional $3.2 million in assistance to serve participants remaining in the application pipeline.
“We did it! With the help of the Housing Authority of the City of Austin and over a dozen non-profit partners, we gave $12.9 million in rent relief to 4,300 Austin families hurting from the pandemic,” said Austin Mayor Steve Adler. “These dollars kept thousands of Austinites safe in their homes during COVID, eased the economic burden on both tenants and landlords, and will be put back into our local economy. These are the kinds of compassionate, smart choices that make Austin so resilient. We hope to make additional help available to Austinites and call on the state and federal governments for support.”
The City of Austin successfully deployed these dollars through a partnership and Interlocal Agreement with HACA, providing for a strong partnership between two agencies that have expertise in delivering large-scale, federally funded programming to low-income residents. HACA’s expertise in administering rental assistance provided an ideal platform for the City of Austin to effectively deploy a significant amount of CARES Act funding over a short period of time. Over the course of the four-month program, families assisted by the RENT program received an average of two to three months of rent, or $2,985 in total rental assistance, with an average monthly rent of $1,130. Of the more than four thousand families served by the program, 61.5% earned pre-COVID incomes of less than 30% of the median family income (MFI) and 39.5% were at 31-80% of MFI.
Among those most served were LatinX populations, at 38% of the total assisted households, who continue to be disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. The RENT Program Progress Dashboard provides aggregate data on the distribution of rent assistance by demographic, zip code, occupation type, and median family income (MFI).
“The City is grateful to HACA and our many local non-profit partners, who all helped to connect with our neighbors who were struggling to pay their rent and assisted with expeditiously distributing these much-needed funds,” said Rosie Truelove, Director of the City of Austin Housing and Planning Department. “Because the need continues in our community, we look forward to making additional rental assistance and eviction prevention services available very soon.”
“The RENT program helped thousands of local families avoid eviction for non-payment of rent, allowing them to stay in their homes where they could be safe during the pandemic,” said Michael Gerber, HACA President and CEO.
The City of Austin’s Housing and Planning Department partnered with HACA to launch the most recent RENT program on August 19, 2020, with a total of $12.9 million in available rental assistance for rents due March 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020. The program provided up to six months of rental assistance to eligible families living within the City of Austin Full Purpose Jurisdiction who experienced a COVID-19 related income loss.
The Future of the RENT Program
The continued positive public input and demonstrated need through submitted applications identifies a strong need to continue this program as well as deploy future dollars made available through federal funds related to pandemic relief and recovery. Feedback from recipients of the program include:
“THANK Y'ALL SO MUCH FOR PAYING MY RENT!! It was such a big help to me especially since I recently had ER surgery. I know you didn't have to put aside these funds for Austinites, but I really appreciate it!!!"
Exclaimed one person.
“Mis hijos y yo estamos muy agradecidos, por esta gran ayuda en estos tiempos tan dificiles para todos. DIOS los bendiga...a ustedes y a su familia.”
Expressed another recipient.
With many Austin families still facing financial hardship as a result of COVID-related income losses, City staff intend to continue to refine program guidelines. City staff are considering feedback from program recipients, Council direction, and continued stakeholder feedback. Additionally, city staff is in the process of designing the next iteration of program guidelines based on available funding and dictated by grantor requirements. Information will be forthcoming as sources of funds are confirmed and received by the City of Austin.
RENT Program Report
A final program report related to the RENT program is under development and is expected to be released to the public in February 2021.
At the onset of the pandemic event, the City of Austin identified early on the need to act swiftly to deploy emergency rental assistance to households impacted by COVID-19. In May of 2020, the City of Austin and HACA launched a pilot version of the RENT program for one month with approximately $1.5 million in local funds. When combined, the pilot program together with the RENT program (September through December) assisted more than 6,000 families and issued over $14,170,000 in rent payments on behalf of renters. Total RENT assistance provided through both programs represents approximately 13,000 individuals in Austin avoiding eviction and remaining safe in their homes during the pandemic, 1,300 of whom were persons with disabilities and 281 were veterans.
For further information on the RENT program, including complete program results data, visit austintexas.gov/RENT.