Residents asked questions and provided feedback at a workshop on Tuesday over Alachua County’s new rental permitting program approved in September 2022 and set to begin this October.
The program requires inspections and adherence to the 2021 International Property Maintenance Code in order to rent and applies to small-scale complexes with 1-4 units—single-family homes, duplexes, triplexes, quadraplexes, condominiums and mobile homes.
The Alachua County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) modeled the program on the one currently operating in Gainesville. Landlords have protested the city’s rental permit program, and many voiced opposition on Tuesday as well.
Commentors asked why the permits won’t apply to 5-unit and more apartment complexes, with some suggesting the move will aid large rental complexes.
Missy Daniels, acting assistant county manager, said the goal is affordability and that the BOCC hopes to include all rental units.
“The county commission is truly interested in affordable housing,” Daniels said. “This program is really aimed at keeping housing affordable.”
She said the county has statistics on how high utility bills, caused in part by low energy efficiency, cause a burden on renters. The county’s program will begin enforcing energy efficiency standards in 2026.
“The only reason [large complexes] were not part of the ordinance to begin with, and aren’t yet right now, is because of the state statute that potentially preempts counties or cities from regulating those larger units,” Daniels said.
Attorneys for Gainesville concluded that Tallahassee preempts the city from using the permit program on the large complexes, Daniels said. But she said the county’s attorneys are looking into the issue and ways to include all rental units.
One landlord said she may just sell instead of working so hard to break even, prompting scattered applause. Others also spoke of the adverse impact the program would have on low-income or even paraprofessional tenants.
The cost of living in Alachua County, a landlord said, pushes many paraprofessionals to neighboring counties instead. A Gainesville attorney has called the city program a violation and now represents dozens of landlords.
Around 50 people attended the workshop, and county staff clarified sections of the program during questions.
Betsy Riley, sustainability manager for Alachua County, also presented a pilot program that will pay up to $15,000 for energy efficiency upgrades in rentals with low-income tenants.
The program applies to any rental located outside the city of Gainesville, but units must meet certain income requirements.