JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Friday is the first time in more than a year that the OUR Florida program is no longer an option for people who don't have enough money to pay their rent. The program stopped accepting new applicants at 10pm Thursday May 12th, but there are still other options for people who need rental assistance.
"The lack of these funds is going to hit families very hard," says Jacksonville Area Legal Aid attorney Suzzane Garrow.
More than 228,000 families were allowed to stay in their homes with the help of more than $1.3 billion in rental assistance money distributed by OUR Florida over the past year. But now that the program is no longer accepting new applications... what's next? Garrow says that there will likely be a rush on a limited supply of public housing.
"We anticipate there might be an increase in emergency housing applications, Section 8 applications and public housing," says Garrow, "unfortunately those programs have long wait lists and that's not an immediate fix."
Despite many rental assistance programs ending, there is still help available. The State Housing Initiative Program can help users locate affordable housing options in Florida. A link to their website is here: Local Government Information (floridahousing.org)
You can also dial 2-1-1 to call the United Way for assistance on a variety of topics, including housing information.
If you're facing eviction, the Jacksonville Area Legal Aid eviction court form builder tool was created before the pandemic and still offers timely guidance.
"We continue to change it to meet the needs and the moment with the defenses that are out there and the legal landscape that is out there," says Garrow, "it will most assuredly be there and be active and updated to reflect what options and defenses people have now."
Despite the average rent price in Jacksonville rising by 25% over the past year, combined with the end of the OUR Florida program, there is still help for those who need it.
You can get in touch with the Jacksonville Area Legal Aid by phone or email. Their phone number is (904) 356-8371 and their website is: jaxlegalaid.org