Rising rental housing costs and even rising prices are pushing Floridians out of their homes in numbers that constitute a state of emergency, 14 Democratic state lawmakers say calling on Gov. Ron DeSantis to take emergency action in terms of housing.
“In central Florida rents have risen 20% since January, in South Florida rents have increased an average of 14% overall, and the Tampa Bay area has seen a staggering increase of 24.8% of rental prices since July, the largest increase in the country, ”said their letter to the governor on Thursday. “We ask that you use your authority as governor to declare a state of emergency in Florida for affordable housing. “
The letter is signed by Broward County Senator Gary Farmer, Orange County Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith and 12 other lawmakers from across the state.
Specifically, they want a declaration of emergency that would activate protection against price increases – increases of 10% or more – retroactively to cover rent increases over the past 12 months.
“During this holiday season, and after the incredible hardship the pandemic has inflicted on so many families in Florida, we believe that no child should be concerned that they and their parents will be evicted due to predatory increases in rental prices. “, indicates the letter.
Democrats cite data from the National Low Income Housing Coalition showing that 40 percent of middle-income households in Florida are “overburdened” in terms of housing expenses and that 89 percent of poor households pay more than 30 percent of their housing costs. monthly income for rent. .
We call on Governor DeSantis to declare a state of emergency to crack down on homeowners who are taking advantage of the pandemic to engage in price hikes and to ensure that we allow our working families the freedom to have housing affordable. first, ”Farmer said in a press release.
“The people in our community are suffering because of the inadmissible rent increases they cannot afford, but Governor DeSantis is too busy fighting the ‘revival’ and running for president to solve the real problems that face the Floridians, ”Smith said in the statement.
The Democrats ‘letter notes that the state government has withdrawn more than $ 2.3 billion from the Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund since 2001 for purposes other than housing, despite Democrats’ objections, and that the state has delayed in distributing federal COVID relief funds for rental assistance.
“This has put many people who could be helped on the brink of eviction,” the letter said.
Democrat Nikki Fried, state commissioner for agriculture and consumer services, has long criticized the DeSantis administration for federal aid funds that languished in state coffers instead of being handed out to families in need.
Nov. 15 was a federal deadline for the few states still sitting on most of their rental assistance funds to explain how they would step up the pace or risk losing money. Fried said Florida had $ 660 million in unspent rental assistance funds at the time and asked for an explanation. The Children and Families Ministry said it submitted the state’s response on November 15, pledging to spend the unused funds by January.
Fried asked how many families may have been evicted in the meantime and joined Democrats in criticizing the DeSantis administration over its handling of federal rent assistance since it suspended a state moratorium on evictions.
“It seems clear to everyone except Governor DeSantis that there is an affordable housing crisis in Florida, reflected in its misguided budget priorities and the failure of his administration to quickly disburse federal aid to the government. rent, ”Fried said in a statement for the Phoenix. . “At some point, I hope the governor will really focus on the day to day issues that affect Floridians, starting by tackling the affordability of housing in our state.”