Since the pandemic began, the supply of homes in Florida has not kept up with demand. Even with interest rates rising, housing prices are hitting record highs every month. The market is so hot that the average rent in Orlando jumped by 21% last year.
While this may seem good news for existing homeowners, they are suffering because of ripple effects lingering from the pandemic. Enter a non-profit organization called Rebuilding Together, with several offices in Florida.
Jose Garcia, Rebuilding Together Tampa Bay’s (RTTB) executive director, says that the organization was founded in 2000 around the belief that everyone deserves a safe and healthy place to call home. “Sadly, however, we all know right now that safe, healthy, and affordable housing is out of reach for many of our neighbors,” Garcia says. “So, we want to let all Floridians know that we are here to help.”
RTTB provides free assistance with critical repairs, home assessments, education, supplies, and affordable housing opportunities. The organization has offices in Hillsborough County, Pinellas County, and Orange County.
Garcia recently visited Orlando, which he says is experiencing a historic increase in the cost of living. Studio apartments, which used to fetch under $1,000 a month, are now priced well over that amount. He has seen one-bedroom units near downtown asking close to $3,000 per month.
The housing squeeze has gotten so severe that both Disney and Universal, which employ thousands of low-wage workers, are donating hundreds of acres of land for the construction of affordable housing. But given the shortage of construction materials and workers, these units won’t be available for months, at the earliest.
In the meantime, housing has become too expensive for many, even homeowners. Garcia says this speaks to an urgent need to restore and repair the area’s decrepit, but still-occupied homes.
To that end, on May 7th, Rebuild Together celebrated National Rebuilding Day by repairing homes in Orlando. An army of volunteers from companies like Lowe’s, Publix, and Bank of America came out to do exterior painting, landscaping, door replacements, and install smoke detectors, among other things. Nationwide, Rebuild Together has conducted more than 10,000 repair projects with over 100,000 volunteers.
“With the help of our sponsors, partners, and volunteers, we are turning neglected houses into safe and healthy homes,” Garcia said, “but there’s a lot more to be done.”
Urgent home repairs are offered at no charge to homeowners, who can apply at https://www.rttb.org/apply. To qualify, you must live in and own your own home, be current with your taxes and mortgage, report a household income of 120% or less than the area median income, and own no other properties.
To become a corporate sponsor or volunteer in central Florida, visit https://www.rttb.org/get-involved.