In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Texas launched groundbreaking initiatives: The Texas Rent Relief Program (TRR) and the Texas Eviction Diversion Program (TDEP). These programs, the first of their kind in Texas for statewide rental and utility assistance and eviction diversion, operated from their inception in February 2021 until their closure in the summer of 2023. Administered by the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA) and funded by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program, TRR and TDEP were pivotal in helping low and moderate-income Texans remain in their homes during the pandemic.
Key Strategies of the Texas Eviction Diversion Program
TDEP was designed to provide substantial support to renters facing eviction. The program enabled courts to temporarily halt eviction cases, allowing tenants and landlords to apply for rental assistance. It also offered training to court administrators on guiding tenants and landlords through the rental assistance process. Crucially, TDEP facilitated lump-sum payments to landlords for overdue rent and late fees, ensuring tenants could stay in their homes. A significant feature was the confidentiality of eviction case records, thus preventing these cases from impacting tenants’ future housing opportunities.
Program Impact in Numbers
- TRR and TDEP collectively disbursed over $2.2 billion in rent and utility assistance, benefiting more than 323,000 households across Texas.
- Coverage extended to 250 of the 254 counties in Texas, marking a 98% territorial reach.
- Over 82% of the assisted households earned at or below 50% of their area median income.
Eviction Diversion Success
Through its collaboration with the judicial system, TDEP successfully assisted over 25,000 applicants with more than $243 million in aid. This intervention not only halted evictions but also ensured these records remained confidential. The program was implemented in eviction proceedings by 800 Texas Justices of the Peace and 254 County Court Judges at the appeal level.
Moreover, a historic investment of $43 million was made in legal services to prevent homelessness. Over 30,600 households received free legal support, including eviction court representation and mediation services. Housing Stability Clinics further extended assistance to over 27,000 households facing housing challenges.
Outreach and Education Efforts
The outreach component of these programs was robust, with over 410,000 bilingual postcards mailed and nearly half a million flyers distributed in five languages. The TexasRentRelief.com website garnered over 6 million users and 30 million page-views, offering content in multiple languages including Spanish, Korean, Vietnamese, and Chinese.
The success of these programs can be attributed to the extensive collaboration with stakeholders, including tenants, landlords, utility providers, legal aid services, and various government agencies. This collective effort was instrumental in refining and supporting these vital pandemic relief initiatives.
Continued Assistance for Renters
Even with the closure of TRR and TDEP, Texans struggling with rent payments have options. TDHCA advises renters to:
- Contact their property management to discuss potential local assistance, payment plans, or other solutions.
- Explore emergency rental assistance, utility bill aid, and homeless services through Help for Texans.
- Utilize resources like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s rental assistance directory and 2-1-1 Texas for state social services.
- Seek legal assistance and guidance on eviction-related matters via dedicated portals and helplines.
The Texas Rent Relief and Eviction Diversion Programs stand as testament to Texas’ commitment to supporting its residents through unprecedented times, demonstrating the power of coordinated efforts in providing essential aid and maintaining housing stability.