Gov. DeSantis tosses Miami-Dade eviction prevention funding from state budget

He did clear more than $500M for statewide housing assistance programs.

Hundreds of Miami-Dade households at risk of eviction will have to rely solely on local funding this year to help keep roofs over their heads.

Lawmakers approved a $1.35 million earmark this year for the county to spend on rental assistance and legal representation for residents embroiled in eviction proceedings. The money, plus more than $4.7 million in local funds, would have gone to local nonprofits to aid those in need.

Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed the state portion of the funds, along with nearly $950 million for other local projects.

Substantively identical funding requests from Sen. Shevrin Jones and Rep. Felicia Robinson, both Miami Gardens Democrats, sought $2.5 million for the initiative. The Legislature ultimately OK’d spending $1.35 million following this year’s budget conference.

Approximately 800 households would have been helped if the county received the full $2.5 million it asked for, according to the funding requests, which said people who are elderly, economically disadvantaged, disabled, unemployed, and mentally or physically unhealthy would be prioritized as recipients.

Miami-Dade launched an Eviction Diversion Pilot Program in March 2023 with a $2.9 million appropriation. The county directed the funds to Legal Services of Greater Miami, which worked with a handful of community-based nonprofits to provide advocacy, outreach and awareness on tenants’ rights, and legal assistance to households facing eviction.

Legal Services Executive Director Monica Vigues-Pitan said at the time, “Miami’s housing crisis calls for greater public investment, and this large funding will give Legal Services a unique opportunity to work in partnership with community-based nonprofits to do our part to help solve it.”

Within six months, the initiative helped some 450 families, Legal Services Chief Advocacy Officer Jeffrey Hearns told WLRN. It also inspired activists and lawyers to call for a similar effort in Broward County.

While housing insecurity has existed throughout history, it became a major focus during the pandemic, when DeSantis imposed and repeatedly extended an eviction moratorium to help struggling Floridians get by. Landlords in Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties nevertheless filed nearly 2,200 eviction cases in August 2020 alone, the Orlando Sentinel reported, due to tweaks in the language of DeSantis’ executive order that allowed some eviction proceedings to advance.

Skyrocketing rent rates in South Florida saw eviction numbers exceed pre-pandemic levels in 2022. By mid-year, there were 9,220 eviction cases filed in Miami-Dade, a 61% increase over the year prior and 9% higher than in 2019, according to the county’s Office of the Commission Auditor.

That trend continued in all of South Florida last year, according to data from The Eviction Lab.

Grace Hartley, a research specialist with the organization, told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in January that five out of 100 renters in the Greater Miami area have eviction proceedings filed against them. She said 2% to 3% is considered high, adding that some landlords evict tenants in off-the-books ways that aren’t recorded publicly.

DeSantis approved $116.5 billion in spending for Fiscal Year 2024-25. That included $234 million for the State Apartment Incentive Loan program, $174 million for the State Housing Initiatives Partnership program, and $100 million for the third year in a row for the Hometown Heroes Housing program, which assists first responders, educators, health care professionals, child care employees, active military personnel and veterans with affordability assistance.

Some of the items he vetoed, he said, were things he supported “but that we have state programs for.”

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


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