By Adrian Hayes-Santos
Gainesville City Commissioner, District 4, ACLC Member
This article originally appeared in the Fall 2019 Alachua County Labor Coalition newsletter. Watch the Labor Coalition’s Facebook for details on upcoming vote by City of Gainesville on Safe and Healthy Housing ordinance mentioned in this article, probably in October. Learn more at laborcoalition.org.
I want to thank the ACLC, its members and the community for their support in ensuring that all Gainesville renters have safe and healthy housing. Because of your work, the ordinance currently being drafted by City of Gainesville staff addresses all five of the ACLC’s Safe & Healthy Housing for All recommendations:
Universal, low cost landlord licensing and inspection throughout Alachua County.
Lower utility bills by requiring landlords to meet low-cost, high return on investment, energy and water efficiency standards.
A mediation program for rental deposit disputes modeled on the County’s successful Wage Recovery Ordinance.
Greater disclosure of rental units’ safety and efficiency ratings, as well as renters’ rights and responsibilities.
Protections against discrimination based on source of income and citizenship status.
So what’s next? After seven months of Gainesville’s Rental Housing subcommittee meetings, where all sides of the issue had their voices heard, a comprehensive and strong recommendation to address our deficient housing stock and renters rights was brought to the city commission.
The city commission voted 6-0, on July 25, to accept the recommendation and to direct staff to draft a new ordinance. The draft ordinance should be available for community feedback and back before the commission for review sometime in late October or November. Because of the complexity of the ordinance, it is expected that there will be multiple drafts of the ordinance, but my goal is to have first and second readings of the ordinance by February with it going into effect Oct. 1, 2020.
Even before the ordinance has passed, the city is preparing for the expected changes to how rental housing works in Gainesville. In next year’s budget, the city has added a new Rental Housing Advocate position that will be based in the Equal Opportunity Department, and $150,000 that will be used to start the implementation of the ordinance.
If this ordinance passes, it will be the most progressive rental housing ordinance designed to ensure safe and healthy rental housing in the Southeast United States, and will be a model for other communities to use to protect their residents. But because of the strengths of this ordinance, there will be a strong push back against the ordinance over the coming months.
My request to you is to keep pushing and fighting for Safe & Healthy Housing For All. Keep emailing and meeting with commissioners, write letters to the editor, and keep spreading the word on social media that you support Safe and Healthy Housing for All.