by Sheila Payne, Alachua County Labor Coalition
One of the Alachua County Labor Coalition’s biggest campaigns in years – our Renters Rights initiative – is nearing a significant victory, but it is under attack by corporate property managers and realtors, and we need your support to push it through. A Realtors Association Pac out of Tallahassee has sent over 25,000 mailers to Gainesville residents and are running ads against this initiative.
Currently, our City Commission is considering an ordinance which includes:
- requirements for all rental properties to meet life safety, housing standards, and basic energy/water efficiency requirements to keep tenants safe and help lower utility bills
- greater disclosure of renters’ rights and responsibilities
- a City-sponsored mediation program to help counter rental deposit theft and other abuses of tenants
- landlord licensing and inspections citywide
Please join us in expressing your support for this initiative by emailing the City Commission at CityComm@cityofgainesville.org. A message as simple as “I am writing in support of the proposed rental housing ordinance” is great, but feel free to write more about your experience as a renter in this community. Right now, Commissioners friendly to this initiative tell us that they’re being swamped with calls and emails from business interests who oppose this initiative – we have to counter them!
We also welcome letters to the editors of the Gainesville Sun and Independent Alligator.
Three years ago at the start of this housing campaign, ACLC wrote an op-ed which opened with, “Our community has a severe shortage of affordable housing. With 3,000 new residents projected to be moving into Alachua County every year, the Alachua County Labor Coalition supports a variety of measures to help increase the overall number of affordable housing units in the future. However, we also believe this community must address existing housing costs and conditions for our community’s most vulnerable residents now. Renters in this community are due basic rights and protections such as a safe place to live, freedom from discrimination, affordable utility bills, and disclosure of their rights and responsibilities as tenants.”
First the county, then the city has already updated their anti-discrimination in housing codes over the past year which the ACLC introduced and pushed through. It prevents discrimination based on income source, citizenship status, gender preference and being a survivor of domestic violence.
The ACLC has been contacted many times by community members who were unable to use their housing vouchers to rent in many neighborhoods. We have been contacted by people who were asked by landlords about their citizenship status and by people who were denied housing because of being a survivor of domestic violence. Unbelievably, there were also people who most recently have landlords who did not want to accept CARES ACT vouchers as payment for their rent. We directed all of them to the Alachua County Equal Opportunity Office where the new housing codes are enforced, which then contacted the landlords and set them straight.
If you’re able to help out as this campaign reaches its final stages email us and we’ll get you plugged in. We will pivot to the county next. email@example.com. Check out Alachua County Labor Coalition Facebook page and group for updates and share our information. For background on the Safe and Healthy Housing campaign go to https://laborcoalition.org/. You can also find letters of endorsement at our website.
You can also sign our easy on-line petition which generates a letter to the City Commission here; https://tinyurl.com/Iguana1109.While on the website, check out our work on Eviction Resistance; we are actively in the community outreaching to those people who have been served eviction notices. Eviction Lab, run out of Stanford University expects 4,000 renters will be evicted in Alachua County when the state eviction stay notice is lifted.
Lastly, the ordinance will come before the Gainesville City Commission on Sept. 17 for a first vote. Please tune into that meeting to voice your support for this important ordinance which will try to bring all housing in Gainesville up to code and codify mechanisms for tenants to be able to fight for their human right to safe and healthy housing.