Orange County Commission debates rent stabilization efforts, tenants' rights

Inside the Orange County Commission chambers, commissioners talked over the details of rent stabilization and tenants' rights. Outside, activists said it's time for a change.

Protestors hung a huge banner from the parking garage across the street that read, "Rent stabilization now - let the people decide." At a rally before the Orange County Commission work session, activists said the people who keep central Florida’s economy going can't afford to live here.

"Because it's really a struggle, they are, and I am also struggling, they don't know anymore how the rent is getting so high. They're getting together - in one apartment, they live like nine or ten people!" said Maria Carillo, who works at Disney.

Other Disney workers say some of them can't even afford a roof over their heads. "My rent got up $300, and I can't afford it, and I have coworkers living in the street. It's not two, three, or five. There's hundreds of them!" said Sofia Ortiz.

At the meeting, commissioners discussed several measures aimed at making Orange County housing more affordable. This includes setting a referendum on rent stabilization, which means limiting how much a landlord can raise your rent, the adopting of a tenant's bill of rights for Orange County renters, establishing a 60-day notice before landlords either raise rents or end leases, and continuing emergency rental assistance for qualified renters.

"We have to do something in our community," said Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings. Obviously, the rent prices have gone through the roof here. So we're listening to both sides, the landlords and tenants. We'll come up with something that will be balanced in our approach."

All of these measures will only apply to multi-unit properties. Rent stabilization would require a referendum for the voters to decide in November. Commissioners could approve the rest of the measures by passing ordinances. Many of the details still need discussion, which commissioners will hash over in future meetings. The next meeting to discuss this is set for July 26. Commissioner Emily Bonilla, who's championing this effort, says she's pleased so far.

"There's concern by commissioners for the people of Orange County, which you want to be able to see, as a resident who voted for your elected officials that they care about you," Bonilla said, "and they want to do what's right to be able to help you and that's what we saw, today."