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Pandemic Exacerbates Central Florida's Housing Crisis

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order pausing foreclosures and evictions for 45 days, but what does it mean in practice for tenants and landlords?
Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order pausing foreclosures and evictions for 45 days, but what does it mean in practice for tenants and landlords?

The pandemic is changing the way we live, and for tens of thousands of Floridians, it’s not just a matter of hunkering down and waiting for business to resume. 

Many of those suddenly without work are also wondering how to pay rent and keep a roof over their heads. 

Intersection host Matthew Peddie is joined by Democratic state representative Anna Eskamani and attorney Alex Mestdagh for a conversation about what the pandemic means for tenants and landlords. 

Eskamani said there's been some confusion around Gov. Ron DeSantis' 45 day suspension of evictions and foreclosures.

"Operationally, what we've seen is some landlords perfect finding opportunities for flexibility, and then we've seen landlords, especially on the commercial side, really move towards eviction, and actually post what's a three day eviction notice," said Eskamani.

"I think the biggest fear I have alongside others, is once we get through this crisis is, there going to be long list of evictions just waiting to happen because folks are struggling to access relief they're trying to get, as small businesses are still waiting for loans to be able to pay their bills on time as well."

Mestdagh, who works primarily in commercial real estate transactions, said with the slowdown in those transactions his firm has had to pivot from helping clients sign new leases to helping them negotiate the pandemic.

"However, those same landlords that were looking to sign new leases, as part of their ownership are now having to deal with tenants coming to them for relief," said Mestdagh.

He said his firm is also also making sure that clients are talking with their lenders "and not doing things that may cause them to be in breach of any of their loan documents. It's more sort of just distressed kind of work that we're working on that we saw back in 2008 2009 crisis, but it's much broader right now."

Mestdagh said it's in the interest of a landlord to work with tenants, especially those who have been there long term.

"So you do get a tenant out and they leave? Now, who are you going to backfill it with? It's just a dearth of businesses that are needing to sign new leases, obviously depending on the industry they're in."

Eskamani says the pandemic has reaffirmed some problems with Central Florida's economy: an affordable housing crisis and a service driven economy where people are living paycheck to paycheck.

"We're doing everything we can but it needs larger systematic change. And I think that's a larger conversation to have about fordable housing, about the cost of living here, about our wages, a larger conversation that we have to have post COVID-19 into the next legislative session."

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