Critics say Florida governor Ron DeSantis has exacerbated the crisis by failing to formulate a plan to lead Floridians through the pandemic. Now more families are at an increased risk of losing their homes through evictions or foreclosures.
FLORIDA – On September 1st, when the last eviction moratorium comes to an end, it is estimated close to 1.5 million Floridians will lose their homes. With no clear end to this crisis in sight, it is impossible for families to avoid the economic fallout that comes from paying rent or a mortgage while unable to earn an income.
As COVID-19 cases continue to wreak havoc within the state and hurricane season is upon us, a movement in the state is beginning to demand that Governor DeSantis formulate a bold, viable plan to lead residents out of the current crisis, and offer impacted renters and landlords long-term solutions ensuring safe, sustainable housing for all.
Critics say Governor DeSantis’ mishandling of the COVID-19 crisis has led to an exponential increase in infections and an avoidable delay in statewide economic recovery. That mishandling, they argue, has unnecessarily extended the crisis, “directly causing harm to renters and landlords as the economic fallout continues.” One example of this mishandling is the governor’s recently ordering of public schools to reopen, despite scientific evidence advising otherwise and against the interests of many public school teachers. As a result of that order, over 9000 children have been infected since the reopening.
The month-to-month statewide eviction and foreclosure moratoriums were hard-fought victories for the tenants and homeowners of this state, however not only was the language of the moratorium changed, allowing evictions to proceed through their legal phases and stopping just short of enforcement, but tenants are still suffering harassment and strife due to their housing conditions.
Floridians are speaking out about the housing conditions and the current health crisis that is leading to this wave of evictions:
Charlotte “Cha-Cha” Davis, Orlando, evicted from her apartment: “We are ultimately helpless against a system riddled with unfairness and lack of compassion for vulnerable, at-risk populations including our LGBTQ+ community. We need a renters’ bill of rights, we need to have our day in court and a rent control program. We can’t wait any longer. ”
Sara Cruz, Vero Beach, evicted from her apartment: “My landlord sent sheriff’s deputies to my apartment to get me out. I had to gather what I could and immediately leave. I lost my job because of Covid and I am treated like a criminal because I cannot pay my rent.”
Curneshia Frazier, Tampa, served an eviction notice: “If I didn’t have family or friends to go to, I would be on the streets with my three children. No one was expecting Covid to change our lives. You pay your bills on time, but when you need help there is no one to offer any assistance or compassion.”
Satya Stark-Bejnar, Tallahassee: “The coronavirus pandemic wiped out all but (2) hours a week of my caregiving work. Since March, I have reduced my cost-of-living as much as possible, but I’ve still had to beg, borrow, fundraise online, and even fall behind on other bills to stay current with rent, car payment, and car insurance. The specter of eviction is always on my mind, and that’s an anxious, exhausting way to live.”
Valencia Hill, of Tallahassee: “I’ve been consistently harassed and pressured by my landlord, I’ve reached out to my City Officials for help and told they have no control over the landlords and their threats to foreclose on my home. My Landlord has been waiting for the Moratorium to be lifted so they can throw their foreclosure and eviction papers at me with no compassion for my situation with the pandemic, being laid off and issues/delays with my unemployment.”
Brandon Hudspeth, of North Miami: “Florida needs to take action on slumlords and rents. I lost my job due to COVID back in March, and my landlord began intimidating me and attacking me with physical violence to evict me. Fearing for my life, I was forced to leave. Even with the moratorium, there is much abuse and landlords who take federal assistance, but still evict their tenants anyway. We need a permanent solution.”
Laura Giron, of Wynwood: “I am a college student and my family is struggling to support me and my education because we have had changes in income due to COVID. The college has increased tuition, room and board to account for the extra safety measures they’ve had to implement during the crisis. It has made it a very difficult time to get an education, and I wish the FL Governor could be more supportive of families with kids in college.”
We demand a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures for residential and commercial properties until the end of the year, direct rent and mortgage relief for those in need, negotiation with banks to ensure forbearance for mortgage holders, housing for the homeless in hotels, and public notice to tenants and homeowners on their rights and protections. Housing is essential and as a social determinant of health, it is increasingly viewed as a human right. In the current situation, it not only protects families from the COVID-19 pandemic but shelters them from natural disasters, such as hurricanes. It’s only through a full eviction moratorium, through the end of December 2020, and direct economic relief that Floridians can work towards safe and secure housing, and truly begin the long road to economic recovery. DeSantis must act!
The FL Housing Justice Alliance (FHJA) is a movement of renters, mobile homeowners, people experiencing homelessness, advocates, and allies calling for housing justice. The Florida Housing Justice Alliance members include Miami Workers Center, Community Justice Project, MHAction, Organize FL, SEIU FL, New Florida Majority, Family Action Network Movement (FANM), Struggle for Miami’s Affordable and Sustainable Housing (SMASH), FL Student Power, Catalyst Miami and more. Learn more here: floridahousingjusticealliance.com.