ORLANDO, Fla. — As the cost of living goes up, many are finding no cost is rising more dramatically than rent.

What You Need To Know

  • Area renters are seeing their rent climbing up

  • One of the reasons for that is the increase of new residents, says an expert

Dave Lowrey rents a two-bedroom apartment in Central Florida. The professional musician has lived in the unit for 12 years, splitting space between a living area and music studio.

“I freelance around town, but all of the gigs ended when the pandemic started, so it’s creeping back in,” Lowrey said.

With a full workload yet to return, Lowrey is stretching dollars like he stretches chords on the bass.

With rent on the rise, Lowrey said he is now paying $153 more each month. That is another $1,836 for the year, on top of the monthly increases last year that amounted to a $1,500 increase.

“Add that together and you’re already over $3,300 out of my pocket for the calendar year, so you have to cut things,” Lowrey said. “I won’t do this, I won’t do that. I won’t go anywhere. I won’t go to a restaurant. I’ll try to save. People might say, ‘Make more money,’ but I’m a musician, so I’m still trying do it with music. I don’t know, I have to try to get something else going on.”

Lowrey has some paid gigs coming up, but he like others, facing a sudden surge of rent, while income is not growing at the same rate.

Albert Harris-Russell and his partner Logan rent a one-bedroom apartment in downtown Orlando.

The professional photographer said their rent is going up so much they now have to consider if they can stay, or if they’re being priced out.

“Six months ago this apartment was going for $1,500 to $1,600,” Harris-Russell said. “Now it’s jumped to almost $2,000.”

The increases in base rent do not include additional fees that often include parking, internet/cable, trash, and other services.

Rent website Zumper produced a National Rent Report and found Orlando ranks as the 29th most expensive rental market in the United States.

In 2020, a one-bedroom apartment in Orange County costs an average of $1,200 to $1,400 per month.

Zumper’s data shows Orlando’s median rent rate for a one-bedroom is up 22.5% since this time last year; approximately $1,470 for a one-bedroom and $1,600 for a two-bedroom. 

A sampling of a non-scientific Spectrum News survey found a range of rent increases in Florida. Respondents said their rent was going up between $100 to $1,000+ per month in some areas, including Orlando, Tampa, and Miami. 

The obvious question is: why?

Some have told Spectrum News their landlords blame an influx of people moving to Florida from New York, California, and elsewhere.

Amanda White, government affairs director for Orlando-based Florida Apartment Association, said a surge of new residents is one reason rents are going up.

“Supply and demand is the biggest factor here,” White said. “We can’t continue to grow our economy in the way that we are. It’s nearly 1,000 new people a day moving to Florida. We’re certainly not building 1,000 new housing units a day, so we can’t continue to grow our population and our economy without also growing our housing stock.”

White said there are other factors too, including costs for new and existing apartment communities going up across the board.

As for solutions:

“There are definitely a lot of solutions out there we think could help address housing affordability in Florida,” White said. “One issue we see quite frequently is all too often, land in a community is zoned predominately for single-family housing, which unfortunately won’t get us the density and supply we need to address this growing demand for housing.”

White said the Florida Apartment Association is lobbying the Florida Legislature to allow local governments to offer property tax discounts for affordable housing units.

The challenge in the here and now is that those like Harris-Russell and Lowrey face is an imbalance in trying to balance dramatically rising costs with wages that have not grown as quickly.

The rent increases also come at a time economically when many families are already struggling.

From July 1, 2020, to June 30, 2021, The Heart of Florida United Way’s 211 Information and Referral Crisis Line logged 40,963 contacts for housing assistance, with 19,991 specifically for rental assistance in Orange, Osceola, and Seminole counties, the agency told Spectrum News. 

In the same period, Heart of Florida United Way also received 24,000 requests for eviction assistance. In the end, the agency was able to provide assistance to 1,452 households, totaling $3.6 million.