After providing $129k in relief, Denison ends rental assistance program,

Michael Hutchins
Herald Democrat
The city of Denison has provided about $129,000 in funding for rental assistance over the past five months.

After five months of assisting residents, Denison is bringing its emergency rental assistance program to a close. The city announced last week that it is ending the program after assisting 27 families with a total of nearly $129,000 of relief funding.

"We were pleased to participate in the Texas Emergency Rental Assistance Program through the Department of Housing and Community Affairs," Managing Director of Communications and Engagement Aaron Werner said. "... To date, we have distributed all available funds to our citizens. We see this as a great opportunity for us to provide resources to people who really struggled through the COVID-19 impact."

The city launched the program in January as a part of the Texas Emergency Rental Assistance Program as a part of the Community Block Grant Program, which provides annual funding for investment and improvement in low- to moderate-income neighborhoods.

Denison was allocated $150,000 for rental assistance. Of this, $128,806 went to rental assistance, with the remainder used for  administrative costs.

Under the program, the city was able to assist with up to six months of rent, with most of the monthly rents coming in between $500-$1,000. In the vast majority of the cases, the city was able to assist with back payments, with the remainder going toward future rent.

Werner noted that the program did have some stringent requirements and the city was not able to assist everyone who applied for the funding. As an example, some applicants were unable to prove that they had direct COVID-19 impact that led to their rental issues. Other requirements were related to the CDBG program itself, including restrictions on rental properties with lead paint. In two cases, applicants were required to remediate this in order to receive funding.

"We did run into that a couple times because we have older homes here in Denison," he said.

In recent months, the demand for the program waned to the point that city officials were contacting local landlords in search of households that might be able to make use of the funding.

"I think that is a positive sign for where we are with COVID and its impacts," Werner said.

Despite Denison closing its program, Werner said assistance is available on the state level. However, this will likely be the end of the program through Denison's CDBG. While funding for CDBG programs comes in annually, Werner said it is usually allocated fast and likely would not be enough for future years of rental assistance.

"This program is actually still taking place but at a state level," he said. "They still have funding available. Anyone that reaches out to us for rental assistance, we are sending them directly to the state."