Orange County mayor says more dialogue is needed on rent control plan

Proposal calls for 5% cap on rent hikes

Orange County commissioners will set up another meeting to discuss a plan that would put a temporary cap on rent increases, ahead of a possible vote.

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Orange County commissioners will set up another meeting to discuss a plan that would put a temporary cap on rent increases, ahead of a possible vote.

The proposal from Commissioner Emily Bonilla calls for a 5% cap on rent hikes. The cap would last for 1 year and would have to be approved by Orange County voters.

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The report on the proposal was commissioned by the county and outside consultants suggested that legislation to control rent prices locally may do more harm than good.

GAI Consultants analyzed the plan and made recommendations to the board. The company noted that policies encouraging advance notices of rental increases could work, but it also said the issues the plan addresses are beyond what local governments are capable of fixing.

Other unintended consequences the company pointed to in the report were lowered maintenance, decoupling of utilities from rent prices and “reduced mobility of the most vulnerable populations.”

Instead, the company said, the issue is the amount of housing and rental units in the market — the population of Orange County is growing faster than the rental market can accommodate, leading to a shortage of units and higher prices.

Dr. Owen Beitsch who presented the study at the Orange County Commission meeting Tuesday said, “In reality, while the spike is pretty high, it’s not inconsistent with other parts of the country.”

During a news conference early Tuesday, Bonilla called the report opinionated and biased.

“If (commissioners) saw that a consultant who was supposed to do fact-finding on rent stabilization was so biased as to say you’re getting outside attention, then we really should get a refund on this report,” Bonilla said. “Unfortunately, it looks like they were not ready to do the job they were hired to do, and they were too biased to provide a report that we deserved.”

Dozens of people spoke on both sides of the issue during the public comment section of Tuesday’s meeting. Renters and landlords said the study did not have real data to it.

“Suggesting rent control isn’t in any way a solution to house shortages and it ignores the reality of how the majority of rental housing is financed,” said an investor who spoke out at the commission meeting.

“I had to constantly move and move and move, and I did not have the wages to actually afford an apartment,” a renter said.

Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said more dialogue was needed.

“I do believe however that doing nothing is not an option,” he said. “We have to look at this from the property owners and the renters and come up with a discussion on how to move forward.”

The commissioner will schedule a special work session to further discuss the proposal. No date for the meeting has been set. If the commission decides to put the plan to a vote, that needs to happen by July. If approved, the rent control plan would then go on the ballot for voters in November.

About the Authors:

Mark Lehman became a News 6 reporter in July 2014, but he's been a Central Florida journalist and part of the News 6 team for much longer. While most people are fast asleep in their bed, Mark starts his day overnight by searching for news on the streets of Central Florida.

Jerry Askin is an Atlanta native who came to News 6 in March 2018 with an extensive background in breaking news.