Lawmakers send letter asking gov to declare rent hikes an 'emergency'

Orange County officials recently broke ground on this affordable housing community.  State lawmakers say projects like these are a step in the right direction, but lots more needs to be done. 

A letter from Florida Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith and other legislators is calling on Gov. Ron DeSantis to declare an affordable housing emergency in the state. 

"We in our office, are hearing from constituents who are facing 10, 20, even up to 30% rent hikes that they simply can't absorb," Smith said.

The letter cites media reports showing that central Florida rents have increased 20% since January, overall. It also references how the state has cut more than $2.3 billion from its affordable housing trust fund since 2001. That money would have gone to building more affordable homes. 

"Therefore," Smith said, "we're sitting here with a lack of affordable housing units."

In response, DeSantis says his budget has put money into a fund that helps first-time homebuyers. He says he's also increased pay for many public-sector workers. 

"We're increasing teacher pay, again doing thousand-dollar bonuses for teachers, principals, cops, and firefighters. Increasing salaries for state law enforcement by 25%."

Smith also says the county could use tourist development tax dollars to build more affordable housing. People in Orlando say they back the move - something needs to be done about the high rents.

"Well, it's going higher and higher every month," said Andres Martinez, "this year is crazy compared to last year."

"Excessive increases at this point in time I don't think are going to work," agreed Andrew Lamothe.

State legislators are calling on the governor to cap rent increases at 10% and make that retroactive for the last 12 months.

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