Florida residents are grappling with rising housing costs, including large increases in rent for apartments and houses as an ongoing affordable housing crisis becomes a centerpiece of gubernatorial campaigns for the 2022 elections.
Jean Stallworth, a resident in Duval County, knows the affordable housing struggle all too well.
Stallworth, 67, told the Florida Phoenix in a phone interview that she is disabled and was forced to move out of a house she was renting earlier during the pandemic because her landlord raised the rent.
“The people I was renting from decided not to renew my lease because they wanted to raise the rent,” she said. “They only gave us 30 days to move.”
Stallworth said her rent went from $700 to around $1,000 per month and she had become homeless at one point before moving into a motel.
“I just didn’t have any money,” Stallworth said. “I was in my SUV, with my two dogs. I used savings to stay in a motel. It’s been pure hell. I’ve lost everything.”
In fact, Florida’s rental market has become problematic for many families and workers battling to afford surging rent prices over the past two years, according to a March 2022 report covering Florida’s rental market by Florida TaxWatch, a nonpartisan, nonprofit taxpayer research institute.
And over the past year, the price of homes in the state has increased as well. “The unrelenting ascent has priced out many would-be homebuyers, leading them to rent instead and placing upward price pressure on Florida’s rental markets,” TaxWatch wrote.
For rentals across the state, the median rent prices jumped from “$1,340 in February 2020 (right before the pandemic) to just over $1,760 in February 2022,” a 31.4 percent increase over two years, according to the report.
Over the past year, major metropolitan areas, such as Miami, Tampa, and Orlando, have seen large increases in median rental prices overall. For instance, the median rent cost in Miami for a one-bedroom unit is $2,420 and $3,220 for a two-bedroom unit, as of February 2022. Those figures represent about a 34 percent increase in median rent prices over the year.
Sharon Storey, 64, told the Phoenix in a phone conversation that she’s been struggling to help her son find an affordable home to purchase in Duval County. She said her son is paying nearly $2,000 for rent but hopes to buy a house in the area. “There should be a cap on rent,” she said.
One of the major issues, is that “out of state folks or corporations are buying the homes,” Storey said. “I am really stressed over this as a mother.”
“For a first-time homebuyer, like my son, and they even have a good down payment. Every time we got to these homes, we get there, and it’s already sold,” she said.
“Our kids are going to be forced to move out of Florida,” Storey said. “I am appalled, he’s 30 and he can’t even buy a home. I wake up every night in the middle of the night and check Zillow to check to see if there’s a house available for my son.”
Candidates address affordable housing
Gubernatorial candidates for the 2022 election have launched tours across the state to unveil their plans to address affordable housing.
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, a Democratic gubernatorial candidate, announced a plan this month to declare a housing state of emergency in Florida, if elected as governor.
Her plan also involves blocking any attempts by lawmakers to raid Florida’s affordable housing trust funds.
At a news conference in Tallahassee this week, Fried discussed her plan, saying, if elected, “I will take on predatory landlords” who raise rental costs. “Florida renters are being taken advantage of,” she said.
She also said during the press event that she would utilize empty motels and hotels for affordable housing for low-income people.
Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, another Democratic gubernatorial candidate, has a different plan that includes appointing a “housing czar” to help “meet broad housing affordability goals,” if elected.
And his agenda on housing affordability involves creating policies that tackle rising costs of electricity and utilities. He unveiled his plan in late January.
“When I was governor, I took on the power companies and demanded lower rates for working families,” Crist said in a written statement. “I appointed consumer-oriented regulators who were on the side of the people, not on the side of profits. And my ‘Affordable Florida for All’ plan is our campaign’s promise that once I’m in office, I’ll do it again.”
State Sen. Annette Taddeo, of Miami-Dade, also is a gubernatorial candidate in the primary. She hasn’t responded to the Florida Phoenix about her housing plan. But in a statement in March at the time when the state budget was approved by the Legislature, Taddeo said:
“Florida has quickly become one the most unaffordable states to live in the country. We have an affordable housing crisis, skyrocketing property insurance rates, and a crumbling infrastructure.” Meanwhile, she said, “Governor DeSantis and his minions in the legislature engaged in culture wars.”
Bryan Griffin, deputy press secretary for DeSantis, told the Phoenix this week that the Republican governor “has consistently recommended full funding for the State of Florida’s affordable housing programs since his first year in office, and he is appreciative of the legislators’ decision to appropriate a significant amount towards affordable housing in the 2022-23″ budget.
Griffin also claimed in another email on Thursday that there were no “sweeps” of affordable housing funds to general revenue in the 2022-23 budget.
In years past, lawmakers have taken funds from the housing trust fund.
Griffin added: “The governor’s successful policies in the state of Florida have attracted new residents from across the country, making property in Florida increasingly valuable. This positive externality of successful state government will naturally come with new challenges, like increasing rent costs.”
Housing trust funds transferred to other programs
While low-income families continue to look for affordable housing, the Florida Legislature moved $100 million from a “State Housing Trust Fund” to create a program for homebuyers.
The move came during the 2022 legislative session, when lawmakers were wrapping up the state budget document for 2022-23.
The $100 million “from the State Housing Trust Fund shall be used by the Florida Housing Finance Corporation to establish a Florida Hometown Hero Housing Program to provide down payment and closing cost assistance to eligible homebuyers,” according to state budget records.
There were no further details and no mention of a local project related to the new hometown hero housing program. For transparency reasons, the Legislature created a process to vet a program and provide numerous details to be able to get a local project into the state budget. But that didn’t occur in this case, according to the budget records.
Florida Realtors advocated for the new Hometown Hero project and said in its literature that the program “would complement — not take away from — existing efforts to increase homeownership opportunities for low-income Floridians.”
The state budget hasn’t been approved yet — DeSantis would have to approve that $100 million.
Rep. Angela Nixon, a Democrat representing part of Duval County, said in a phone conversation that Democrats had tried to push several bills related to the housing crisis and evictions this session, but the GOP-controlled Legislature didn’t pursue Democrats’ bills or even amendments.
“It’s frustrating that Republicans want to pat themselves on the back as if they did something. When in fact, they are the ones who helped contribute to this housing crisis in the state of Florida. He [DeSantis] created culture wars as opposed to addressing the housing crisis.”
–Isaac Morgan, Florida Phoenix
Cate Saunders says
I’m not so sure rent control is the answer, although I 100% sympathize with those who are finding it impossible to pay their monthly rent. We have to consider that if rent control were implemented, it would penalize those who own regular rental properties and who have not succumbed to the quick-cash bonanza of short-term rentals. Landlords can’t be expected to take it on the chin when property taxes have shot up and insurance has doubled. Someone has to cover the extra cost, otherwise the landlords had might as well be charities. It’s obvious that low-cost housing is not going to happen anywhere near the coastline, but there’s plenty of suitable land farther inland where low-income housing could be built.
Bottom line – this is pure price gouging. Apt complexes were built with a budget that had reasonable and affordable rents. This increase is pure profit!!!!
I agree with this statement. Preditory landlords all jumping on the bandwagon and local Floridians are becoming homeless overnight. Hospitality people cant survive this and i never hear Ron DeSantis talk about this problem. It should be against the law to triple the rents like this.
Median rent means half the rents are higher and half are lower.
Dems use this as a platform to dethrone the Repubs.High rent touches a person’s wallet. Prove that you all can lower rent and I believe we can and will win a lot of seats. I mean nation wide.
R zel says
It’s gentrification- DeSantis wants Fl to be a wealthy white mans paradise. Well they can wipe their own arses when they get sick mowing their own lawns, taking their own trash to the landfill and fixing their own food.
Concerned Citizen says
You are absolutely correct R zel. With the low wages for service occupations in the state of Florida, no one will be able to work as a food cashier, fast food service, hairdresser, housecleaner or any of the occupations you mentioned above. All of the people who can afford housing will have to do everything themselves. A society cannot function that way. There has to be a breaking point.
The Facts says
Not sure where you are going with that. In my experiences in all of those situations they’ve all been white also. Not members of the undeserved community…..
Yes, I am white, this is bot about skin color. This is about locals who work down here regular jobs that serve the vacation people. We are homeless now. Thanks to whoever is responsible for this. Dont think for one minute this is only for people of color. This is all people who are suffering this situation. Stop assuming only black people suffer. I am tired of hearing that ocer and over as if only people of color suffer these high rents not true at all.
Hey, R zel says:
You hit the nail on right on the head.
JOY Lynn FARMER says
I definitely agree 💯. We need to get rid of DeSamtos. He’s messed up too much other shit.
I said same thing lol, who will wait on them and cook their food at the restaurants? They have a shortage of staff because the staff left florida or are on the street homeless now. We are a vacation state, not Wall Street. We only make so much money.bthe rents are insane. We pay rent, food, gas and car payment and have not a dime left over for savings or to even go out.
Hard work says
How convenient of the author to exclude the ROOT CAUSE of inflation: unbridled democrat spending and the mass release of trillions of newly printed dollars.
Republicans thought it was a bad idea and were steamrolled by the left. Now everyone is feeling the repercussions and left is trying to pass it off like some random fart in an elevator…
Howdy, Hard work: which Hate Radio host are you parroting?
And aren’t all farts random anyway?
Are the elevator farts tactical or accidental?
Ah…but wait: the farts are strategic!
Advice: don’t inhale. It’s analogous to listening to Hate Radio.
Hate Radio=strategic flatulence for the ears.
It’s worse than tea-bagging unsuspecting sleepers.
Hard work: How convenient to ignore history. Look it up: Republicans tend to get us into recessions, Democrats tend to get us out. Signed, Independent.
That has nothing to do with pure greed of preditory landlords gouging locals. I am Republican but this high rent is holding people hostage and not able to save money now. Its rediculous
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but this is happening all over the country. Try finding a decent place to live anywhere in the country that isn’t a dump or in a bad neighborhood for less than the median price in Florida. It’s very difficult. You’re just using this as a political ploy. The problems exists everywhere!
Ok , it it does. So then it needs to be fixed everywhere. This is not a joke, these are real people who work, not take drugs or drunks who are becoming homeless by the thousands.