Orange County commission votes to put rent control question on November ballot

click to enlarge Orange County commission votes to put rent control question on November ballot
Photo courtesy City of Orlando

By a narrow vote of 4 to 3, the Orange County Commission voted to put a rent stabilization ordinance on the ballot in November.

The ordinance limits rent hikes in some apartments by tying them to the consumer price index for a single year. The move is narrowly tailored to skirt Florida's statewide ban on municipal rent control, which led activists to decry just how little the act does.

Still, the move was met with stiff resistance from council members, local landlords and Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings. Demings told the gathered crowd that he thought the rent stabilization ordinance was the wrong way forward, pushing for increased funding for rental assistance programs.

"I think what has really worked for our community is the fact that we have provided that rental assistance, that is what has kept people in their homes and that's what will keep people in their homes,” Demings said.

At a prior meeting on the issue, rent control booster and commissioner Emily Bonilla noted that the incredibly tailored language of the ordinance makes it cover far less than she initially hoped. The text of the ordinance would cover less than half of Orlando's rental stock.

"The point came when I saw this ordinance and these additions that the board had not discussed and basically what I said was, ‘You work for the board and the people of Orange County, not for the developers,’ " Bonilla said..

Orlando has seen some of the highest increases in rent in the nation over the last several years and the average single Orlando adult no longer makes enough money to cover their bills. It's worth asking how long we can keep funneling money to landlords as a band-aid on the problem of unaffordable housing.

Orlando Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith had one solution: pushing the governor to declare a state of emergency over Florida's housing affordability crisis. Under a state of emergency, a year-over-year rent increase of more than 10% would be considered illegal price-gouging.

As it is, voters will get the chance to decide the issue on November 8. It would take effect that same month, if passed.
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