Dallas City Council sorting out how to help renters, homeowners at risk of losing their homes due to COVID-19

Dallas City Council members are sorting through how to best use an influx of money from the federal government to help renters and homeowners at risk of losing their homes because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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It is in the hands of city council members to now figure out how to safeguard $5 million from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and use it to help about 1,000 people who are in danger of being kicked out of their apartments or homes due to the county's stay-at-home order.

“Is there a limit for value of home? No. But there is a limit on value of assistance,” Councilwoman Cara Mendelsohn said.

Dallas is planning to take applications for rent or mortgage assistance starting May 1.

About 1,000 Dallas residents could receive a max of $1,500 a month for three months.

The applications would be considered on a first come, first serve basis, which raised concerns.

“Ones most needy won't hear about it until 1,000 people have been served. 5 million will go fast in mortgage assistance,” Mendelsohn said.

Mendelsohn questioned if the city's plan to distribute HUD money would really help the most vulnerable, or instead help the savviest.

“We will end up with report showing we have served in way that is not equitable or serving most needy residents. That day is going to come,” she added.

The city would only look at a person's last two pay stubs to determine income eligibility, which is capped at $66,500 for a family of four.

And the city is not set to look at a person's assets.

“A person may have inherited land or house. Just because you have the land or house, doesn't mean you can use it to pay your mortgage,” said David Noguera, Dallas director of housing.

While Councilwoman Mendelsohn said she believed the city's assistance should be restricted to the most needy renters, Dallas City Councilman Omar Narvaez said he believes the city needs to help homeowners as well.

“This is affecting families who have never had to go to Food Bank before or ask for any government assistance before in their entire lives,” Narvaez said.

Councilman Chad West questioned why the city needed to use 20 percent of money from the Cares Act for administrative costs.

City staff explained that the money would be used to provide oversight, to prevent the type of damaging audits the city has faced in the past from HUD.

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