By DAVID L. SNELLING Special for South Florida Times
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Broward County became the second entity in South Florida to help residents whose rent has increased amid an affordable housing crisis and left some people homeless or scrambling to find affordable places to stay.
County Commissioners recently approved an ordinance which now requires landlords to give their tenants not less than 60 days notice of rent increases of more than five percent.
In addition, Broward County announced a second round of rental assistance for people struggling to pay their rent from the lingering economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nearly 5,000 households have already received $53 million from the first round of U.S Treasury emergency assistance funding in Broward.
At a time when other city and state emergency rental assistance programs are coming to a close, Broward has received an additional $22 million in funding to continue this important family lifeline.
For the 60 days notice ordinance, during a recent commission meeting, renters struggling to pay their rent told commissioners they are being forced to leave their place of residences because of the current expensive rent hike with short notice.
One man who was diagnosed with cancer was among those forced out of their homes, saying his rent increased from $1,350 to $1,950 per month.
Commissioners Nan Rich and Torey Alston co-sponsored the 60-day ordinance.
"There is a sense of urgency here," said Rich. "We’ve heard from people, including one person with cancer who had a rent increase from $1350 to $1950. We’re going to move forward with what we can do with the restrictions that are in place from the state legislature."
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic led to an exodus of non-Floridians from New York, Virginia and other parts of the U.S. to move to Florida with higher wages and costs of living.
The addition of residents saw an upsurge in rental rates in Florida.
According to Realtor.com, the median rent in Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties increased 57 percent from March 2021 to March 2022, which is the highest rent increase in the nation.
One man told commissioners his landlord raised his rent by $600 a month. "They want everybody out," he said. "This is going to create a large homeless problem."
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis called a special session for this week in Tallahassee for state lawmakers to address the affordable housing and property insurance crisis.
Some state lawmakers whose constituents are impacted by the affordable housing crisis said one option is restoring 100 percent funding from the Sadowski Housing Trust Fund.
The fund was originally used for affordable housing but state lawmakers decided to use it for pet projects and tax breaks and other expenses unrelated to housing.
The fund generates an estimated $400 million annually, in doc stamp revenue from home sales.
Broward County’s 60-day notice ordinance is similar to Miami-Dade County’s legislation which passed in April, and Miami-Dade made declared an affordable crisis last month and made $13 million in rental assistance available for renters struggling to pay their rent after landlords increased their rate by over 20 percent.
Miami-Dade stepped up further to protect renters from their landlords by passing the Tenant’s Bill of Rights ordinance which was sponsored by County Commissioner Jean Monestime.
The new law allows tenants to deduct costs of neglected repairs from their rent, prohibits landlords from asking about past evictions, landlords are required to notify tenants of new owners, protects tenants from retaliation if they seek government help against their landlord, and creates the ofﬁce of housing advocacy
The Ofﬁce of Housing Advocacy will also be responsible for conducting training, engaging munity and professional groups representing tenants and landlords, and publishing and disseminating information and educational materials relating to the Ten. Rights.
“As you know, I’m very passionate about this topic,” Monestime said when his colleagues unanimously approved his ordinance in early May. "We all have the understanding that we do everything for the betterment of Miami-Dade County.