Florida Realtors and landlords are teaming up in a battle against recent efforts to enact rent control laws after a rapid run-up in prices in the Sunshine State.
The two groups have filed a lawsuit seeking to block a cap on rent hikes in Orange County, which includes Orlando, and landlord groups have promised to fight similar efforts in Tampa.
The fight comes as the local governments consider declaring a housing emergency that would allow them to enact caps on rent increases each year. They also come as progressive cities, states and members of Congress renew the nationwide debate around rent control.
It also shows the tension that can arise from record-high rents and rapid price increases. Markets across Florida have seen rent spike faster than anywhere else, and the Tampa council said the region is seeing an ensuing rise in homelessness and housing instability.
“Tampa, like many other Florida metros, is at a crossroads after years of housing construction lagging behind population growth,” the Florida Apartment Association said in a statement. “This growth, as well as the clear and convincing evidence against rent control, cannot be ignored.”
Rather than capping rent at 5 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower, the Tampa council should instead look at its zoning and promote ways to lower the cost of construction, the FAA said.
A Florida law prohibits rent control unless jurisdictions prove a housing emergency exists.
In its draft ordinance, the Tampa City Council notes that 50 percent of households in the city are renters, that the city is on pace for rapid growth and that rent had grown 28 percent from 2020 to 2021.
Homelessness has gone up and half of the families in the nearby counties are considered rent-burdened and paying more than 30 percent of their income.
Landlords would face the threat of jail time and fines for violating the proposed ordinance.
The rent control wouldn’t apply to short-term rentals.
In Orlando, Orange County Board of Commissioners voted 4-3 this month to send a measure tying rent increases to inflation to voters this November.
The FAA and Florida Realtors responded this week by filing a lawsuit aiming to block a rent control measure in Orange County from reaching the ballot.
“Florida Realtors has long advocated for affordable housing,” Florida Realtors CEO Margy Grant said in a statement. “Studies show that rent control has unintended consequences that can make matters worse. A better solution would be to pursue public-private partnerships that result in more affordable housing units.”
The FAA says the county still must prove it has a housing emergency as it asks voters to approve the measure.
“Throughout several workshops, FAA and even the County’s own hired experts pointed out the realities of Florida law and the fact that Orange County’s proposal failed to meet the high bar established under statute,” the group said in a statement. “It is unfortunate that a majority of the Orange County Commission disregarded the law and instead moved to place this measure on the ballot.”