Safe and affordable housing, renters’ rights update

by Jason Fults, Alachua County Labor Coalition

In September, amid the pandemic, the Alachua Count Labor Coalition celebrated one of our largest local victories in the history of the organization. A multi-year campaign we dubbed “Safe & Healthy Housing for All” culminated in a 7-0 vote by our City Commission in support of a “Renters Rights and Responsibilities” ordinance.  

Thanks to ACLC member advocacy and some stellar work by our Commissioners (particularly Adrian Hayes-Santos and Reina Saco), we overcame fierce, continuous opposition by the local Realtors Association and passed one of the strongest, most comprehensive sets of protections for renters that you are likely to find. 

Our victories at the City on this issue include:

Not only a reduction in the cost of landlord licenses (which we advocated for), but an expansion of the licensing to many more rental properties throughout the city that did not previously have to be licensed. In exchange for those licenses, properties will now be inspected and held to a new, enhanced property maintenance code as well as basic energy and water efficiency standards which will keep renters safe and help them save money on their utility bills. Previously, neither renters nor landlords received anything in exchange for the landlord licensing fee.

Stronger anti-discrimination protections in housing, specifically around citizenship status and source of income.

Improved communication requirements for landlords so tenants know more about their rights as a tenant and the condition of the property that they’re renting.

A City-sponsored mediation program to help address the rampant rental deposit theft taking place in this community.

All these changes will, of course, take some time to roll out, but we are very excited and optimistic about what this will mean for working people in this community. Our fight is not over, not by a long shot, and at the onset of 2021 we have begun the push for these same changes countywide.

Moving forward, there will be plenty of opportunities for ACLC members and the community to get involved and we welcome your input on next steps for this campaign and how best to get these changes passed countywide. For now though, THANK YOU again to everyone who supported this epic win through your letters to the editor, social media shares, and calls and emails to our City Commission!

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