ORLANDO, Fla. – Economic analysts call it the perfect storm for renters in Orlando and across the nation.
Rising property taxes and rising insurance premiums coupled with not enough apartments to meet demand and rising inflation are resulting in skyrocketing rental costs.
“Me and my father moved here almost seven years ago,” Sean Zwiefka said.
He and his father, a Vietnam veteran, live in an apartment complex in Orlando’s Rosemont area, and he said his rent has increased 10% each year on average.
This year, his renewal notice informed him his rent was increasing from $995 per month to $1,645 per month. That is a 65% increase.
“It’s just sad when I can tell my dad I’m trying everything I can right now, but it just ain’t enough. It’s sad,” he said. “I’m 30 years old, and I never thought I would be coming to the point where I feel like I’m becoming homeless — to a point where my income doesn’t match what I can afford.”
Zwiefka and his father are not the only ones seeing their rent rise.
According to RentHub, neighbors in Zwiefka’s 32808 ZIP code have seen their rent increase more than 40% over the last year.
Zumper reports rent across the state of Florida has increased about 30%.
Across the nation, renters are seeing an increase of about 14% – more than the rate of inflation.
“I am a renter,” said State Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando.
Not only is Eskamani a renter, she said she needs two roommates in order to pay the rent on their place in Thornton Park.
“Florida state representatives’ salary is $28,000. It’s definitely a part-time legislature,” she said. “I do have another job. That’s my main job, but the cost of rent is difficult even for elected officials.”
Looking to get results, Eskamani and State Sen. Victor Torres, D-Osceola County, filed identical bills in the Florida House and Senate to repeal the law that blocks cities and counties from establishing rent control measures.
“What our repealer does is — it doesn’t automatically grant rent stabilization across the state, but it does say that a local government will have an option to explore this when there’s a housing emergency, which I would argue right now we’re in,” Eskamani said.
Orange County commissioners discussed the idea of declaring that emergency and freezing rent for one year at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, but legal counsel advised them against it because of the law Eskamani is now trying to repeal.
News 6 asked her if her bill would help someone like Zwiefka.
“Oh, 100%. Yeah,” she said. “If our bill was passed, then the city of Orlando, for example, could declare a state of housing emergency, and they could put rent stabilization programs (in place), and say that during this timeframe, you cannot increase rent by ‘X’ percentage.”
The issue would have to be put to the voters in the form of a referendum first.
Right now, there is no talk of rent control with Central Florida local government agencies, and Zwiefka said he and his father are wondering what their next step will be.
“When you see stuff like this, it just is unimaginable. It’s like, what am I supposed to do? Take on two, three jobs just to pay the rent?” he asked.
UPDATE: Eskamani’s and Torres’ rent control bills both died in committees in Tallahassee on March 14.