Lawmakers back nixing local housing regulations
Photo by Jose Alonso on Unsplash
By Jim Saunders
News Service of Florida
April 26, 2023
TALLAHASSEE — With lawmakers on both sides of the debate pointing to a housing crisis, the Florida House on Wednesday passed a controversial bill that would lead to state law trumping local regulations governing landlords and tenants.
The Republican-controlled House voted 81-33 along almost-straight party lines to approve the bill (HB 1417). Rep. Paula Stark, R-St. Cloud, joined Democrats in voting against the bill, while Rep. Kimberly Daniels, D-Jacksonville, voted for it.
Bill sponsor Tiffany Esposito, R-Fort Myers, and other supporters said the state needs to take a free-market approach to addressing the housing problems and that local regulations drive up costs.
“The government is the problem when it comes to the affordable-housing crisis,” Rep. David Borrero, R-Sweetwater, said.
But opponents said the bill would lead to reduced consumer protections and that local governments should be able to address housing issues.
“This bill is designed to help corporate landlords at the expense of tenants, many of which are already struggling to stay in their homes,” Rep. Angie Nixon, D-Jacksonville, said.
The Senate is scheduled Friday to take up its version of the bill (SB 1586).
In recent years, cities and counties, including in heavily populated areas such as Miami-Dade, Broward, Orange, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, have passed ordinances — frequently described as a tenant “bill of rights” — that go beyond a state law known as the Florida Residential Landlord and Tenant Act.
The ordinances deal with a variety of issues, such as notices about rent increases, notices about fees and notices about changes of ownership. Esposito’s proposal is what is known as a “pre-emption” bill because state law would pre-empt, or override, the authority of local governments.
Lawmakers last month passed a separate bill (SB 102) that included preventing local rent controls. Gov. Ron DeSantis signed that wide-ranging housing bill on March 29.
During debate about Esposito’s bill, lawmakers agreed on the problem — a lack of affordable housing — but had starkly different positions on the government’s role in addressing it.
Supporters of the bill said regulations help lead to limited housing supply, which results in higher costs. Rep. Tommy Gregory, R-Lakewood Ranch, said the law of “supply and demand is irrefutable.”
“This bill is not about helping renters, per se,” Gregory said. “It is about making sure local governments don’t love them to death.”
But Rep. Lindsay Cross, D-St. Petersburg, said dozens of local ordinances would go away if the bill passes and that the system is already “tilted” toward landlords.
“What we are talking about here in this debate is simple consumer protections,” Rep. Robin Bartleman, D-Weston, said.