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Two Florida housing bills to watch this legislative session

Republicans hold a supermajority in the Florida House and Senate. On Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2024, lawmakers will gather in Tallahassee for the 2024 Legislative Session.
Via News Service of Florida
Republicans hold a supermajority in the Florida House and Senate. On Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2024, lawmakers will gather in Tallahassee for the 2024 Legislative Session.

State lawmakers will discuss several housing-related bills in the upcoming legislative session, slated for Jan. 9.

Two of them, if passed, could mean big changes for some Florida renters and homeowners amid record-high living costs.

They are House Bill 31 and House Bill 41. Sponsored by Rep. Jervonte Edmonds, D-Palm Beach, of South Florida, each bill proposes some forms of tenant and homeowner protections.

The representative has proposed housing legislation each year, two of which passed last year.

“I took on Florida’s biggest crisis. Affordable Housing,” he said on a Facebook post.

For the renters

HB 31, among other things, would require certain landlords to provide air-conditioning, as long as the dwelling is not a single family home or a duplex. Under current Florida law, landlords do not have to provide or maintain air conditioning for tenants.

The bill also defines lawful termination of a rental agreement and proposes rent increase limits — once a year, capped at 30%. A landlord would be able to charge more if repairs, fees, property insurance, and property taxes add up to more than 30%.

Edmonds' bill is the only way an elected official can attempt to implement legal tenant protections in Florida. During the last legislative session, the House passed the Republican-backed Residential Tenancies bill, or House Bill 1417, preempting landlord-tenant matters to state law, rather than local governments.

The bill’s sponsor defended the legislation, saying her bill protects property owners and capitalism. She also said the bill protects tenants.

Just months before HB 1417 was signed into law last year, Orange County commissioners had voted in the Tenants Bill of Rights. The short-lived document established forms of landlord accountability and rent control, in response to the area’s high-rent crisis, but was immediately thwarted by the new law.

For the homeowners

Edmonds’ other housing bill, HB 41, proposes for the Department of Commerce to establish a grant program for Florida homeowners. Eligible applicants would receive financial assistance with their mortgage and property insurance payments until funds run out.

The bill comes in response to Florida’s inflation and property insurance crisis, which made national headlines in 2022 and 2023, as the highest in the U.S.

“This bill would establish a grant program, awarding $2,500 for those 65 and older and $1,500 for those younger to pay for Home and Auto Insurance,” Edmonds posted on social media.

In a virtual interview with the local news outlet VoxPopuli, Rep. LaVon Bracy Davis, a Democrat representing Orlando’s District 40, said she was working on a similar grant program idea, so she was grateful to see Edmonds filing HB 41.

Florida is feeling it

Davis said people seem to forget that legislators are constituents, too, and that they share a lot of the same financial burdens as any other Florida resident does.

“I've had several conversations with the commissioner on insurance and talked with some other legislators to have a program where Floridians can apply for monies that would help with their insurance rates that have just, sometimes, and in my case, doubled,” she said.

For Davis, immediate solutions are necessary to relieve Florida families and individuals from the extreme financial pressures brought on by high costs and unaffordable housing. She believes HB 41 provides temporary comfort until more permanent solutions can be worked out or the situation becomes more stable.

“I would be 100% supportive of this because we need two things to happen at the same time: We need long term solutions, but also we need short term solutions to the issue, which is money in Floridians pockets right now that will help offset,” Davis said.

The bills will face a Republican supermajority in the Florida House and Senate next week.

Lillian Hernández Caraballo is a Report for America corps member.

Copyright 2024 WMFE. To see more, visit WMFE.

Lillian Hernández Caraballo