BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. — Dawn Elder moved into her new three-bedroom apartment in Boynton Beach last March.
“I love this place,” she said as she walked past her lake in front of her back porch.
This single mother of two was planning to renew her lease until she opened a letter from her landlord.
RELATED: More on the Priced Out of Paradise cover
Elder said his renewed lease offer was $3,900 per month for 12 months.
She was paying $2,790 a month.
Elder makes a good living as a massage therapist and never thought that so much of his income could be spent on rent.
“It’s really only more affordable for the middle class,” Elder said.
“We’re the Wall Street of the South,” said Mike Pappas, who has sold real estate from his office in Boca Raton for half a century.
Pappas said several factors are driving up house prices, including:
- Financial services companies are relocating well-paid workers from the North East
- Glut of wealthy baby boomers retiring here
- Lack of land for development in South Florida
“You have the Everglades on one side and the ocean on the other, and there are 6.5 million people living here today,” Pappas said. “So the question I would ask people today is, ‘Are people coming?’ And if they still have to come, we’re probably going to have a problem.”
Elder said the problem is frightening.
“Where are we going?” she asked. ” What are we doing ? How does it end?
State Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Winter Park, said Florida Governor Ron DeSantis can act to help tenants avoid rent hikes.
“He would be able, once he declared a state of emergency, to enact legal consumer protections against price gouging,” Smith said.
But the state attorney general’s office said the housing and rent spikes are not price hikes.
Proposals in the state capitol that would cap rental price increases are unlikely to pass a Republican-controlled legislature.
Instead, state lawmakers are considering measures to provide tax breaks to developers who build affordable homes and the banks that finance them.
Some want the 1992 Sadowski Act to do what it was meant to do.
Under this law, a small percentage of every home sale in Florida went to an Affordable Housing Trust Fund.
However, the law never had the expected impact.
Critics blame lawmakers for a practice they call sweeping, such as sweeping some of the money that was supposed to go to affordable housing into other parts of the state budget.
“We can’t look to Tallahassee for a solution,” said Jack Weir, a developer who is president of Eastwind Development in Palm Beach Gardens.
Weir is also president of the Palm Beach County Housing Leadership Council.
Next month, the council plans to present a $200 million bond proposal to Palm Beach County commissioners to create 20,000 affordable housing units over the next 10 years.
“It will make a major dent in that issue,” Weir said.
He said the money from the bonds would help pay the monthly mortgage or rent for families earning between $50,000 and $100,000 a year.
“You never completely solve the problem,” Weir said. “But what you’re trying to do is mitigate its impacts and move it from a crisis mode to a more perennial problem.”
This is a problem for Elder, who is now looking for a new place to live.
“I initially left Boca Raton to move to Boynton because it was more affordable for me,” she said. “Now it’s not affordable.”
She wonders if solutions will arrive before thousands more are evicted from South Florida.