Florida lawmakers want rent hikes over 10% to qualify as price gouging

State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith said he is fighting for renters desperate to stop their rent from rising. (WKMG)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Democratic state lawmakers have called on the governor to declare a state of emergency to help address Florida’s affordable housing crisis.

Regions of Florida have seen rent hikes since January — 14% in South Florida and 20% in Central Florida. Tampa has seen rents skyrocket 24% since July — which is the highest increase in the nation.

“This has been a crisis many years in the making,” said state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith.

Smith joined 23 other Democratic state lawmakers who signed a letter to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis requesting he declare a state of emergency. They want him to direct the attorney general to consider any rent increases higher than 10% price gouging.

“This is a tool that is often used by the attorney general, for example, during a state of emergency with a hurricane,” said Smith.

When asked about the letter Friday, the governor put the blame on the federal government.

“We should forward it to (President) Joe Biden and the White House because things are more expensive because of his policies,” DeSantis said.

The governor also highlighted his budget proposal, which includes $355 million for affordable housing.

Mark Hendrickson, with the Florida Association of Local Housing Finance Authorities, told us the governor’s proposal would be a substantial investment.

“It’s the biggest appropriation in 15 years,” said Hendrickson.

Democrats reject the idea the federal government is to blame.

Smith argued the money the governor is proposing to spend is too little too late.

“That’s not enough. We need to be able to take bold action to substantially invest in affordable housing,” said Smith.

Last year, state lawmakers committed to split documentary stamp tax revenue between affordable housing and resiliency projects.

The upcoming legislative session will be the first test to see whether they follow through with that promise.

Even if lawmakers follow through with the governor’s proposed spending plan, experts we’ve spoken with agree the affordable housing crisis isn’t ending anytime soon.