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25,000 affordable housing units may be built, Florida advocates say

The Live Local Act allots more than $700 million for affordable housing projects. Affordable housing advocates in Jacksonville say a tenant bill of rights is needed.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Tens of thousands of new housing units will now be possible in Florida, according to the facilitator of an affordable housing coalition.

The Live Local Act just signed by the governor allots more than $700 million for affordable housing projects. The money for housing programs is receiving praise, but some affordable housing advocates in Jacksonville are pushing for something the law doesn't include at an event Sunday.

Mark Hendrickson estimates the Live Local Act will lead to 20,000 to 25,000 new affordable housing units. He's the facilitator for the Sadowski Coalition. The Sadowski Fund is a state-funded organization for affordable housing that's getting some of the $700 million.

"It really makes an impact, a big impact on the on the problem and [is] what we need in Florida to take this from a crisis level down to kind of a manageable issue that you deal with and that's what this bill I think can do," Hendrickson said.

First Coast News asked Hendrickson if the Live Local Act will solve the state's affordable housing problems.

"No," Hendrickson answered. "So long as you have a vibrant growth state, you're going to have to keep pumping money in for affordable housing."

Hendrickson says there isn't anything he would add to the law, calling it "comprehensive." He says he can't talk about a 'tenant bill of rights' because the Sadowski Coalition represents many organizations.

Jacksonville affordable housing advocates say a tenant bill of rights would give tenants extra protections and help tenants understand what their rights are. The City of Jacksonville's special committee on critical quality of life issues recommends developing a tenant bill of rights. Advocates are pushing for Jacksonville city council members to propose a tenant bill of rights and are educating community members about it at an event Sunday.

"The main thing that we want is for tenants to have protections from rent hikes without proper notice," said Maria Garcia, organizer with the Duval Theory of Change Table. "We want them to have an office of tenant advocacy." 

Garcia, as well as Jacksonville affordable housing researcher, UNF professor David Jaffee, say more needs to be done for tenants' rights for there to be a substantial impact on the affordable housing crisis. Jaffee says besides the millions of dollars for housing projects, the Live Local Act is primarily tax breaks and incentives for the private sector.

"It's hard for just an individual person to stand up to landlords that have the resources to get legal representation," Garcia said. "We want to have a landlord registry that folks can look up before they rent from someone."

The “Keep Floridians Housed Act,” is still moving through the legislature and is focused more on tenants' rights. 

The Jacksonville rental housing crisis forum is Sunday from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at IBEW Union Hall, 966 North Liberty Street.

Read a First Coast News story from earlier this month about affordable housing legislation here.

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