TALLAHASSEE – “The largest ever support for housing in state history”. That’s what Governor Ron DeSantis called Senate Bill 102 when he signed it into law on Wednesday. He’s certainly correct in that it’s an ambitious initiative. But though it passed the legislature and received the Governor’s signature, some fear Florida’s housing crisis is still not yet adequately addressed. Or rather that the solutions of SB-102 give the ball to the wrong players.
The chief function of the bill is to devote $711 million of state funds into affordable housing initiatives over the next decade, an unprecedented expenditure. It also provides government incentives to developers who undertake affordable housing projects. But where it loses some is that it bans any rent control measures by local governments – something that many Floridians have pushed for at the city and county levels in recent years.
The most notable recent rent control ordinance in Florida was likely Orange County’s proposal in late 2022. Voters approved a rent stabilization ordinance with a 59% majority in November, providing a sobering diagnosis of Florida’s plummeting confidence in its housing market. A lawsuit was filed by Florida Realtors and the Florida Apartment Association challenging the measure. It went all the way to the Florida Supreme Court, who have not handed down a ruling yet. Thanks to SB-102, Orange County’s measure would now be explicitly illegal.
Still, in spite of concerns from rent control advocates, the bill received widespread bipartisan support in the legislature. It was passed unanimously in the State Senate on March 8th, and succeeded 103-6 in the Florida House of Representatives on Friday the 24th. The nay votes came from representatives Mike Beltran (R-Lithia), Anna Eskamani (D-Orlando), Rita Harris (D-Orlando), Angie Nixon (D-Jacksonville), and Michele Rayner-Goolsby (D-St. Petersburg).
According to World Population Review, Florida has the 12th highest median rent in the nation, at $1,218 a month. According to recent data from the University of Florida, there were 277,000 fewer available units at less than $1,000 monthly rent from 2012 to 2021. Everyday Floridians are less and less able to turn a blind eye to what’s become a full-on affordable housing crisis, and with this new legislation the state is hoping municipalities and counties will trust it to steer the ship. They will no longer have any other choice.