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Florida Democrats push for more action on high housing costs as session hits midway mark

'All the programs that we have to address these things are not being considered,' Rep. Dotie Joseph says
Posted at 5:32 PM, Feb 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-09 17:32:45-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Democratic lawmakers Wednesday accused the GOP majority and governor of "sitting on the sidelines" as housing costs continue to rise in the state.

"Something has to be done," said Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Winter Park. "The reality is, Floridians can't afford Florida."

Members urged more action in the final half of the 60-day lawmaking session as some communities see rent increases of 20 percent or more.

Data from Florida Realtors also shows single-family home prices up about the same amount in the last year.

"All the programs that we have to address these things are not being considered," said Rep. Dotie Joseph, D-North Miami. "What are they doing? They're arguing about stuff to distract you."

Rep. Dotie Joseph speaks about housing crisis
Rep. Dotie Joseph wants the state to do more to help assist residents struggling with housing costs.

Democrats have offered several policies this year. They include:

None of the measures have gained traction.

Sen. Victor Torres, D-Kissimmee, called on voters to pressure Republican leaders to take up the ideas.

"We're going to the end of the session where they're not going to be heard," Torres said. "But, they can hear you. This is an election year. It's your voice. It's your vote."

The governor's office has rejected notions that he's doing nothing.

Sen. Victor Torres speaks about housing costs
Sen. Victor Torres urges voters to speak out and pressure lawmakers.

His press secretary, Christina Pushaw, said in a statement that Gov. Ron DeSantis' budget proposal would fill Florida's, now smaller, housing trust funds. She also said an emergency declaration would do little to help.

"We recognize that the cost of living has risen significantly, and in Florida, rising rents, as well as other costs, are straining people's budgets," Pushaw said. "However, increasing the amount of government spending and intervention into markets does not necessarily solve complex problems. In fact, it can even make those problems worse, especially when the rise in costs is driven by inflation."

GOP lawmakers, meanwhile, have been advancing their bills in committee.

One policy allows renters to pay monthly fees instead of a security deposit. Another creates a loan program to help teachers, first responders, or health workers offset first-time buying costs.

Sen. Ed Hooper, R-Palm Harbor, is behind that effort called the Florida Hometown Hero Housing Program. He said his policy targets some of those most impacted during the pandemic.

"We had to pick a group and try to limit it to what we could afford to offer that opportunity," Hooper said. "This is the group we started with."

The governor's office said it hasn't had a chance to closely review Hooper's bill, but that DeSantis is, in concept, open to helping the groups mentioned with affordable housing.