As previously reported by Local Profile, the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA) announced in early March that the Texas Rent Relief Program (TRR) would reopen for a limited time from March 14 to 28 for applications. On March 15, only 24 hours after the TRR opened, a message warned applicants that the portal would close again on Thursday, March 16 at 11:59 a.m. —12 days before the original deadline.
“Within the first 24 hours of re-opening, requests for assistance far exceeded available funding,” read the message in the portal. The program reopening was announced with $96 million available for Texans in need of assistance, but there were concerns that the funds could dry up fast.
Kelvin Brown, CEO of Dallas-based Housing Crisis Center, a nonprofit organization that serves Dallas and Collin counties, told CBSNews that the need for rental assistance is surprisingly high. “You would think that what our agency has disbursed in the last two to three years more than a million dollars for at least our immediate community… the demand would be less but that hasn’t been the case at all.”
On Tuesday, the TRR portal’s first day, with an overwhelming 70,000 submissions, the volume of applications was so high the website crashed and some users were unable to start new applications due to delayed load times.
“I think $96 million will go very fast based on what I know and what we’ve seen,” said Brown. His concerns were correct, by Wednesday, March 15, the portal released the new deadline.
For renters in North Texas, this is hardly a surprise. In January 2023, Local Profile reported that starting this March, the Food and Nutrition Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture planned to cut SNAP’s COVID-19 emergency benefits, alerting food banks and nonprofits that noticed an increase in assistance demand over the past couple of months.
According to a report by Apartments.com (via NBCDFW), rent rates increased by $230 in Fort Worth, $250 in Dallas, and $400 in Plano since 2019. Texas Tenants’ Union executive director Sandy Rollins said that the organization continually receives calls from people struggling to pay rent.
“There was already a lack of affordable housing pre-pandemic, it certainly hasn’t gotten any better during the pandemic,” said Rollins. “You know, low-wage workers and people on fixed incomes, retirees and people with disabilities are really between a rock and a hard place.”