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  • Writer's pictureTalia Hill

More rental assistance on the way; Apartment evictions still on ice

Local governments are pledging more support for residents struggling to pay their rent during the coronavirus pandemic.

Austin's Neighborhood Housing and Community Development Department announced May 1 it is providing $1.2 million in emergency rental assistance to residents affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Funds will be administered through a contract with the Housing Authority of the City of Austin, or HACA.

The Relief of Emergency Needs for Tenants, or RENT, program will distribute one-time rental subsidies through a lottery system. Residents can apply from May 4 through 6.

"In this time of pandemic and economic uncertainty, Austin families need the security of safe and stable housing," said Rosie Truelove, the department's director. "While we recognize that $1.2 million can only go so far, we are committed to our ongoing efforts to identify and access additional help for these families as soon as we possibly can."

The Housing Authority will process applications, determine resident eligibility and direct payments to landlords to help cover tenants' rent obligations.

HACA CEO Michael Gerber said the program is expected to help more than 1,000 families "stay in their homes during this difficult time."

Austin Apartment Association Executive Vice President Emily Blair said their members — property owners and management groups in the multifamily industry — are working to connect residents with resources that may help them.

"We know many people who need these funds," she said. "Our property managers will be eager to share this rental assistance source with their residents in need."

Evictions have been on ice since the pandemic deepened this spring — and state and local authorities have moved to further their bans on eviction proceedings until at least the second half of May.

An April 27 order from the Texas Supreme Court directed that no eviction trial, hearing or proceeding may be conducted until after May 18.

On April 30, a Travis County order mandated that no residential or commercial eviction proceedings will take place until after June 1, effectively extending a ban that was already in place. New eviction filings may still be accepted, however.

Austin is currently under a 60-day grace period before eviction proceedings for nonpayment can begin. The City Council ordinance authorizing that grace period expires in early June.

By Daniel Salazar

Austin Business Journal

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