Dallas officials reworking rental assistance program to help city's vulnerable population

The city of Dallas is considering how to rework its rent and mortgage assistance program as it prepares to receive $10 million more in federal funding for the program.

Some city council members are concerned that vulnerable members of the population aren't getting the money.

Hispanics are the largest ethnic group in the city of Dallas, yet they only received 13 percent of the funds for rental and mortgage assistance. City staff promises to fix that for the next time around.

One man, who did not want to show his face on camera, said he lost his sales job in the tech industry due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He says the job search has not been easy.

“I think we all feel our world has been shaken if we have to ask for help,” he said. “You hear the phrase, ‘If we hear of anything, we'll let you know.’ It's tough.”

He was thankful to learn from watching FOX 4 about rental and mortgage assistance through the city of Dallas.

The program was first come, first serve. It opened at 9:00 a.m. May 4th. By 11:30 a.m. the next day, it was closed with 10,000 applications and funding for only 1,500 people.

“Even before the program went live, our phones started ringing off the hook. ‘We can't pay our rent.’ ‘We can't pay our mortgage,’” said David Noguera, Director of Housing and Neighborhood Revitalization.

But councilman Jaime Resendez is concerned that no one from his district in Southeast Dallas received assistance.  He asked how the city marketed the program.

According to the city's data, only 13 percent of the Hispanic community received funds, even though more than 40 percent of Dallas residents are Hispanic.

“It is really baffling how disproportionate with regards to the Hispanic community. That is glaring. When you look at applications really low,” said Councilman Lee Kleinman. “We can only work with people who apply. During the application process, maybe we should have noticed and done something about it.”

Noguera says he heard council members’ concerns loud and clear.

“We have heard that message,” he said. “One thing you will see with the next round is a lottery system.”

The lottery system would not be random. It would be set up to target the neediest sections of the city.

Noguera says the logistics of how it would work are still being worked out.

Dallas city council members will vote on allocating $10 million more federal dollars to the program Wednesday.