Bill introduced to Florida senate would allow local municipalities to provide rental assistance

Published: February 1, 2022 3:17 PM EST
Updated: February 1, 2022 4:23 PM EST

Rent is skyrocketing, especially here in Southwest Florida. Some people see their rent hiked hundreds of dollars a month when it’s time to renew.

Finding a good place to live at a reasonable price is becoming increasingly difficult. Senate Bill 580 aims to alleviate some of the pressure on renters.

The bill’s sponsor, Florida Senator Victor Torres, said this would allow local municipalities the power to provide more rental assistance.

Rita Roberts is one of the people upset with rent prices. She said she would rather sleep outside than pay rent.

“I’d move somewhere in a tent,” Roberts said, because she, like many others, can’t afford the rising rents.

Jessica Sprague said, “it’s absolutely insane. It’s almost to the point where it would make more sense to buy a house and start paying some type of mortgage.”

Roberts and Sprague have seen the hike in prices, with some places charging hundreds of dollars more upon renewal of a lease.

“There’s zero affordable housing,”

Elizabeth Radi lives in Naples. Her rent is somewhere around $1,100, but she excepts a price hike too.

She thinks renters need some protection. “Get a moratorium for the rent hikes. They need to not allow them to go above a certain amount. Because, you know, like I said, even with my apartment, that’s 250% rent increase. That’s, that’s insane.”

Radi says she doesn’t think putting the power in local government will help. “We need something done statewide. I think this is just a band-aid, and they’re trying to pacify.”

Shawn Williams, with the Lee County Attainable Housing Coalition, said, “I think that giving local jurisdictions the power to facilitate change within their areas is very important. I think that at home rule is a good thing because they are closest to the communities that they serve.”

SB 580 is still in the early stages in the state senate. A house version has not been filed.

Senator Torres released the following statement about the current affordable housing crisis:

The lack of affordable housing in Florida has reached a crisis point. Florida has a long history of preempting local governments from regulating certain issues and keeping that regulation solely for the state. More than 50 years ago this preemption was created that denies cities or counties from setting up local housing programs like rent-controlled apartments or subsidized local housing programs. I believe cities and counties need more flexibility to do what is best for their communities to create more affordable housing choices for their residents. If this bill becomes law, cities, and counties would be allowed to create local programs or Ordinances that could provide rental assistance to residents or create new and much-needed local affordable housing programs with rent controls or sliding scale rent prices based on someone’s income.

Unfortunately, very few Floridians can afford to pay 1/3 more a month for where they currently live. We have 1,000 people a day are moving to Florida and that is driving up the cost of home purchases and rental prices and decreasing the number of available affordable housing for seniors, veterans, and working families in Florida. This has to be a priority issue or things will only get worse and too many Floridians will find themselves homeless or living in unsafe housing conditions.