Across Texas, municipalities such as San Antonio, Dallas and Houston have recognized the impending rental crisis and have proactively adopted robust rental relief programs for their residents. The city of El Paso and the El Paso County should immediately vote to approve similar measures here in El Paso. Both the city and county have received funding from the federal CARES Act legislation for economic recovery.
The Texas Comptroller’s office has forecasted that unemployment will soon hit 9% in Texas. Renters are among the most economically vulnerable populations. Most workers in the hardest-hit sectors, including the food & beverage, hotel and daycare industries, are renters. Many live paycheck to paycheck and will be unable to pay their rent in the coming months.
The moratorium on evictions ends May 18. The federal government has issued a moratorium on evictions until July 25 for federally assisted rental housing programs. Organizations such as the Texas Apartment Association and the El Paso Apartment Association had urged their members to waive late fees and develop payment plans for their residents long before any emergency orders were declared.
There is a misperception that property owners have deep pockets and can absorb the loss of revenue. The reality is that most property owners operate with very low margins. The National Apartment Association estimates that only 9 cents of every rental dollar collected are profit. The property management sector in El Paso is a microcosm of the business community in El Paso. The vast majority of property owners are small and medium-sized enterprises that make a modest income.
El Paso has the opportunity to prevent a housing crisis and should act now. Funding a rental relief program will bolster El Paso’s small-business community and provide stable housing to some of our most vulnerable residents.
We believe the most efficient mechanism to distribute rental relief funds is through a nonprofit organization. The program should follow the criteria established by the County of El Paso General Assistance fund for qualification.
We also propose that property owners be allowed to submit bulk applications on behalf of their residents. This model is very similar to the Texas Workforce Commission that enables employers to submit mass claims on behalf of their employees.
Nonprofits are more agile than government agencies and can disburse funds in a week as compared to three weeks for the General Assistance Fund.
Let’s not wait until businesses close permanently, and residents are without a home. El Paso has the funds to avert this crisis. Our neighbors in San Antonio, Dallas, Houston and other cities have already adopted similar programs.
We have confidence that our local elected officials have the wisdom to move quickly and approve a rental relief program for El Paso.