Dallas renters who are in over their heads because of the COVID-19 pandemic can feel a little more secure in their homes. Wednesday, the Dallas City Council passed both a mortgage and rental assistance package, as well as tougher protections for those facing evictions.
Beginning in May, Dallas residents who've lost their jobs or been furloughed as a result of the coronavirus can apply for their part of $13.7 million. Eligible households can get up to $1,500 a month for three months.
“COVID-19 has created an unprecedented challenge for our economy, putting a strain on many of Dallas’ working families and small-business owners, all of whom are struggling just to make ends meet,” Eric Anthony Johnson, Dallas' chief of economic development and housing and neighborhood revitalization, said after the Council passed the program. “We are invested in the city of Dallas, its residents and businesses, and remain committed to the recovery long term. While this stimulus support will not eliminate all of the hurdles that lie ahead, we hope it will provide some relief for those affected most by this pandemic.”
The rent assistance is unlikely to go very far. Camden Property Trust, a Houston-based landlord that owns multiple apartment complexes in Dallas, pledged $5 million to residents affected by the pandemic in March. The money, capped at $2,000 per eligible renter, was gone 16 minutes after Camden began taking applications.
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Renters who would otherwise face eviction will now have at least 21 days to negotiate payment of their back rent, should they receive a new, city-required "COVID Notice of Possible Eviction." The notices will also include information on rental assistance programs.
Tenants who can prove financial hardship due to the coronavirus are eligible to receive 60 days before they are given a notice to vacate.
“Thanks to the input of external stakeholders and the transparent and comprehensive committee review process, today we passed balanced policies that provide needed relief for our neighbors,” said Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Adam McGough, who chairs the COVID-19 Ad Hoc Committee on Human Recovery and Social Assistance. “While this action is a step to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on our communities, it is just that, a step. Much work remains to be done as we pave the way towards long-term recovery.”
The ordinance passed by the Council extends the eviction protections for the duration of either Texas' or Dallas' emergency order, whichever lasts longer. Council member Adam Bazaldua, the driving force behind the ordinance, proposed an amendment extending the protection to 60 days beyond the end of the declarations. The amendment failed by one vote, 8-7.