Orange County voters approve rent control; no immediate effect as controversial ordinance remains tied up in courts

Results won’t be certified pending litigation

Orange County commission on rent control study: more harm than good?

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – On Nov. 8, voters in Orange County cast approved a proposal to implement a rent control ordinance, though pending litigation means those results won’t be certified immediately after the election.

Central Florida has long labored under a shortage of affordable housing, and the area’s most populous county, Orange, has seen some of the worst effects of that shortage.

Candidate

Votes

%

Yes
217,16859%
No
151,93641%
98.8% of Precincts Reporting

(244 / 247)

The issue made it to the ballot after county leaders approved the initiative in a 4-to-3 vote in August.

However, while the measure was on the ballot, nothing is going to happen with it — for now.

A lawsuit was filed in September by the Florida Apartment Association and the Florida Association of Realtors, seeking to invalidate the ballot measure, but a judge ordered that the ordinance had to go to voters before a suit could proceed.

After an appeals court stayed the vote, Judge Jeff Ashton ruled Thursday that the measure could stay on the ballot, but the results of the contest will not be certified by the Orange County supervisor of elections and the county canvassing board.

Still, the measure will remain on the ballot, and Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles urged voters to vote for everything on the ballot anyway.

The county has less than 30 days to file a notice of intent to appeal up to the Florida Supreme Court. If they decide to file, it will take place after the November elections.

[RELATED: Why Orange County’s rent control measure will be on the ballot despite lawsuit]

Here is a closer look at what the measure could mean if implemented.

BALLOT LANGUAGE

“Shall the Orange County Rent Stabilization Ordinance, which limits rent increases for certain residential rental units in multifamily structures to the average annual increase in the Consumer Price Index, and requires the County to create a process for landlords to request an exception to the limitation on the rent increase based on an opportunity to receive a fair and reasonable return on investment, be approved for a period of one year?”

BREAKING IT DOWN

If approved by the voters, the proposal would go into effect Nov. 21 and enact measures limiting how much landlords and developers will be able to raise rents over the course of one year. Under the proposal, which was introduced by Orange County Commissioner Emily Bonilla, the rent-hike cap would be set at the same percentage as the Consumer Price Index.

Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings voted against putting the plan on the ballot.

“I don’t know what a rent control will do because there still are going to be people, regardless, who are going to struggle paying their rent,” he said. “In this short term, we’ve got to provide money, real dollars to individuals to keep them in their homes. Even if we decide to advance the rent stabilization ordinance to the ballot, it will be all for naught if we don’t do these things to keep people in their homes right now.”

The plan has received criticism from some housing experts, such as University of Central Florida professor Dr. Owen Beitsch.

According to Beitsch, rent control may seem effective, but it’s only a surface-level solution. If builders can’t earn enough of a profit from building more homes, then they will likely refrain from doing so, creating even more scarcity in a market where people are already struggling to find affordable housing.

BOTTOM LINE

A “YES” vote would enact the rent stabilization ordinance, capping rent increases to the same percentage as the Consumer Price Index for one year.

A “NO” vote would maintain the status quo for the rules regarding landlords and rent increases.

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About the Author:

Thomas Mates is a digital storyteller for News 6 and ClickOrlando.com. He also produces the podcast Florida Foodie. Thomas is originally from Northeastern Pennsylvania and worked in Portland, Oregon before moving to Central Florida in August 2018. He graduated from Temple University with a degree in Journalism in 2010.