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Lawmakers File Comprehensive Affordable Housing Agenda

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 7, 2019

CONTACT
France Françoise
FranceF@catalystmiami.org

Lawmakers File Comprehensive Affordable Housing Agenda

Emphasizing renters rights and need for affordable housing, community organizations across Florida unite behind a housing agenda never seen before in the Florida Legislature

Tallahassee, FL – Joining forces with community organizations across the state, lawmakers have introduced a comprehensive legislative agenda to address Florida’s acute affordable housing crisis. In addition to repeated calls over the past eleven years that the Florida Legislature stop stealing dollars from the Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund, lawmakers and housing advocates are uniting behind renters rights and rent control, and a call to not only stop the Trust Fund sweeps, but that the nearly $2 billion stolen from Floridians in desperate need of housing be reimbursed.

This package includes a comprehensive renters rights proposal filed by Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez (D-Miami-Dade) and Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (D-Orange), SB 1794/HB 1283. This legislation empowers tenants with basic rights necessary to combat predatory landlords taking advantage of a worsening displacement and affordability crisis. Among a long list of reforms, SB 1794/HB 1283 includes:

Florida is in the midst of a housing emergency that is threatening the health and well-being of millions of renters. Florida is one of the least affordable states in the US, having the highest rate of cost burdened renters in the nation. The majority of Florida’s renter households are rent burdened with 1.8 million Florida households unable to afford their rent, including over 715,000 renter households who are paying over 50% of their income on housing.

Senator Jose Javier Rodriguez offered the following statement:

“Our landlord-tenant laws have been out of balance for a long time, tipping the balance in favor of landlords. Especially at a time when affordable housing is at a crisis point in our state, we need to make sure tenants are protected as they spend more and more simply to keep a roof over their head.”

Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith offered the following statement:

“I have seen first hand the exploitation of Hurricane Maria evacuees by predatory landlords in our area: unjust evictions, stolen application fees and deposits, and zero housing security during times of crisis. Our working families cannot thrive without reliable and affordable housing; I’m proud to partner with Senator Rodriguez on this groundbreaking vision for Florida’s renters.”

In addition to comprehensive renters rights, advocates are rallying behind Sen. Victor Torres (D-Osceola) and Rep. Anna Eskamani (D-Orange) introduced SB 1390/HB 6053, repealing Florida’s onerous rent control preemption statute. Rent control has been embraced across the country, and according to a new report released by PolicyLink, Right To The City Alliance and the Center for Popular Democracy, “Our Homes Our Future,” 42 million renter households would have their housing situations stabilized if rent control were adopted across the country. This legislation would provide local leaders a cost-effective solution that to stabilize communities and protect families. Advocates also support

Additional bills that will address Florida’s housing state of emergency include SB 1504/HB 353 by Sen. Berman and Rep. Polsky, which would prevent sweeps and require payback of the Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund; as well as SB 70/HB 1103 by Sen. Mayfield and Rep. Plasencia, and SB1248/HB 153 by Sen. Torres & Rep. Cortes.

Community organizations and renters across the state help to craft and support this groundbreaking platform, including Community Justice Project, Manufactured Housing Action (MHAction), Miami Workers Center, Organize Florida, Vamos4PR Action, and Faith in Florida. Below find quotes from these key partners:

Maria Revelles, Faith in Florida:

“As leaders of many faith communities in The State of Florida, Faith in Florida advocates for comprehensive legislation that protect our most vulnerable and influence policies related to homelessness and poverty. We want to raise the voice of communities of faith and conscience, a voice that hopefully will resonate deeply with people who understand the difference between right and wrong, and basic human decency. We support practical solutions, like those included in the proposed legislation because we consider the formal recognition of renters rights and a pathway to homeownership as key solutions to addressing the affordable housing crisis that our communities are enduring. We will persevere in this commitment until all our neighbors in Florida, dwell in dignity.”

Sheena Johnson, Organize Florida:

“The lack of renters protections and landlord accountability in FL has created severe habitability issues in our communities contributing to public health and safety concerns for women and families. We are proud to stand with renters and lawmakers across the state to put forth these groundbreaking policy proposals” said Sheena Johnson, Campaigns Director, Organize Florida

Trenise Bryant, Miami Workers Center:

“The rent in Miami is not livable. Residence should not have to choose between paying rent, feeding their families,” says Trenise Bryant, Organizer for Miami Workers Center. “Rent control, for many residences could make a difference! In one year, my rent has been raised by $200. Affordable Housing Is A Human Right.”

Margia Mathers, manufactured home resident in North Fort Myers, FL and member of MHAction:

“As manufactured homeowners, we rent the land under our homes from corporate owners, who are squeezing us for every dollar, just like other landlords. We need this law to protect manufactured home residents and renters across the state from homelessness.”

Javier Figueroa, Vamos4PR Action:

“As a tenant and community leader with Vamos4PR Action, I have seen and experienced difficulty accessing affordable housing that many people in our community face because of unjust practices by landlords, including high renits and demands for high salaries, non-refundable application fees and lack of information in Spanish about tenants’ rights,” said Javier Figueroa, who arrived in Orlando in 2017 from Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. “Without better protections for tenants like those in the proposed Tenant Bill of Rights, our families will continue to face barriers that will prevent them from thriving. “

Alana Greer, Community Justice Project, a member of the Right to the City Alliance:

“The current state of landlord tenant law puts Florida among the least hospitable states to renters. This bill is a vital step forward towards fair dealing, common sense protections, stable and safe homes for Floridians.”

Charlotte Davis, renter and advocate in Orlando:

“There is a housing crisis in Orange County that needs to be addressed,” said Charlotte Davis, a renter who lives in Orlando. Davis was evicted from her apartment last year when her landlord raised her rent then refused to accept payment. “I was never offered a lease (to sign) and when (our landlord) wanted us out, we had to get out. We had no rights and we were taken advantage of. Our community needs rent control policies so we don’t have to live this way.”

Katie Goldstein, Center for Popular Democracy:

“In communities across the country, people are rising up to demand rent control and tenant protections. Communities of color are most rent-burdened and are having to make the impossible decision between paying for health care, food, transportation and rent. Rent control policies are the protections that our communities need so that we can have the freedom to thrive without fear of exorbitant rent increases or eviction.”

Debbie Soto, Organize Florida (Board Chair):

“The housing crisis has mushroomed to the point that communities of color are one paycheck from being homeless and one major rent increase from being homeless. And because communities of color, as well as low-income communities, are more likely to be renters, we need better policies to protect them.”

Maria Revelles, Faith in Florida:

“As leaders of many faith communities in The State of Florida, Faith in Florida advocates for comprehensive legislation that protect our most vulnerable and influence policies related to homelessness and poverty. We want to raise the voice of communities of faith and conscience, a voice that hopefully will resonate deeply with people who understand the difference between right and wrong, and basic human decency. We support practical solutions, like those included in the proposed legislation because we consider the formal recognition of renters rights and a pathway to homeownership as key solutions to addressing the affordable housing crisis that our communities are enduring. We will persevere in this commitment until all our neighbors in Florida, dwell in dignity.”

According to a 2018 report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition, only 17 rental units are available for every 100 extremely low-income renters in the In the Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford area; and only 22 in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach region. The lack of affordable housing stock is compounded in Central Florida by rising rents- Orlando boasts one the highest rising rents in the nation with a one-bedroom apartment renting for $1,100.

 

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