The rent is too dang high in Orlando

Nothing makes a term like “affordable housing” go from wonky to real world quite like getting a rent-increase notice in the mail. That’s what happened to reader Alison Rivera, who wrote this in response to our recent call-out asking for your questions about housing in Orlando:

“How will they fix this? I just got news that the one-bedroom apartment I pay $1,280 a month for is going up to $1,470. THAT’S INSANE!”

Alison isn’t the only one feeling sticker shock around Orlando these days. With average rents in Central Florida now rising faster than any other major metro area in the country, Alison says rent-increase war stories have become common in her circle of friends and family — even among those who have already attempted to cut costs by living with roommates.

“It’s across the board,” she said. “$200 seems to be the average price hike this year, which I’ve honestly never heard of before in Orlando.”

Rental assistance is an option for some, but Alison, who works in marketing and splits the cost of rent with her boyfriend, has a salary that’s well above the cut-off to qualify for federal programs like Section 8 or tenant-based rental assistance (a.k.a. TRBA).

The couple considered moving farther away from downtown Orlando. Their current neighborhood, near the airport and Lake Nona, has become increasingly expensive as new luxury apartment buildings have gone in, Alison said. But she hesitated when she realized she’d have to trade in her five-minute work commute.

Instead, Alison and her boyfriend are packing up and moving all the way to California. It’s a change they had planned on well before the rent increase came in the mail, but Alison said Orlando’s rising housing costs relative to her professional opportunities is the main reason for their decision to relocate to the Los Angeles area.

“Yes, the rent over there is more expensive, but I also just feel like I’ve got to go where the opportunities for advancement are,” she said. “We sat down and did the math, and it just made sense.”

Regarding Alison’s question of “How will they fix this?” — that’s still TBD. The city of Orlando is investing in more affordable units for low-income residents, but those efforts might not end up meaning much for young professionals who don’t meet the income thresholds to qualify.

If and when your landlord hits you with a rent increase, there are a few things you can do to make the most of an unfortunate situation:

    • Know your rights. In general, landlords must provide 60 days written notice for a rent increase of more than 10 percent in any 12-month period — although the period of notice is not specifically spelled out in Florida law. Rent cannot be raised in retaliation against the tenant or on the basis of discrimination.
    • Reach out for help if you need it. If you’re in a crisis, one-time rental assistance is available through the Orange County Citizen Resource & Outreach Division. Applicants must demonstrate an unforeseen event that contributed to the emergency need for assistance.
    • Get involved. Affordable housing is becoming a big political issue in Orlando, with 44 percent of households now spending 30 percent or more of their monthly income on housing — in other words, that means they meet the standard for being considered “rent burdened.” Write your local representatives or attend a city council meeting and add your voice to the conversation about potential solutions. Get involved with an organization like Lift Orlando, Orlando’s Community Redevelopment Program, or Crisis Housing Solutions.

 

» Want to learn more about Orlando’s housing crisis and all the numbers reflecting the need for affordable housing? Check out our first post on eye-opening housing stats in Orlando, and then read up on what local organizations and people are doing in our community to address this big issue

 

By Caitlin Moran
Caitlin writes newsletters and stories for The Evergrey. She's worked as a journalist in and around Seattle since 2010 and is a proud resident of Capitol Hill's Summit Slope neighborhood.