Increase in rent rates up to $400; residents ask for help

JACKSONVILLE, Florida. – Dozens of families are contacting the News4JAX I-TEAM following an investigation into rising rents in Jacksonville.

Local tenants are complaining that they are being squeezed financially as their apartment complexes raise their rent.

At the same time, they find it difficult to move around because the prices are high everywhere.

Many said rent prices are higher than they can afford with their current incomes.

According to the Florida Apartment Association, the average monthly rent in the Jacksonville area has increased from $1,125 in 2020 to $1,411 in 2022.

The average rent in the Jacksonville area has increased by more than $286 in just over two years. (Copyright 2021 by WJXT News4Jax – All rights reserved.)

The group also reported that there were fewer vacant apartments in Jacksonville than in the past and that limited supply was driving up prices.

Jacksonville teacher and new mother Vanessa Baffour-Singletary is facing a $400 rent increase on her family’s two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment in Fort Caroline.

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They were paying $809 a month, but she showed a notice left on her door saying her rent would be increased to $1,232 a month. She said the managers then offered a discount of $1,150 per month.

“Absolutely not,” she said, telling News4JAX that she didn’t get what she paid for. “Especially for someone who’s been here 10 years and paid their rent on time.”

She pointed to issues in the unit, which she said the owners haven’t fixed — from mold to plumbing issues in the bathroom and kitchen.

“The toilet overflowed onto the carpet,” she said. “See that bulge in the carpet? This is where the toilet was leaking.

Not to mention a rodent problem, according to Baffour-Singletary. She said the rats ate through the couch.

The I-TEAM contacted management about their complaints and received the following response from Riley Davis, Regional Property Manager for Cushman and Wakefield, who manages the property:

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“We are aware of the resident’s concerns and have worked with him to resolve them. Over the past few months, we have worked to not only improve individual units, but have opened a free daycare and community center for our residents and their families. We have enrolled the community in the Jacksonville Police Department Watch Group to improve the safety of all of our residents. Community facilities have been repaired and improved. Our team also helped our residents navigate government COVID-19 relief options, raising over $400,000 in rental assistance for those in need. When we took over management of the community two years ago, the property was rated sub-3.0 on rental sites; thanks to our work, it is now rated at 4.0.

Although some tenants at the complex receive government assistance, Baffour-Singletary said her family pays for the unit out of pocket.

“We actually tried to research a lot of places, but I guess the rent is just going up everywhere in Jacksonville,” she said when asked about the move. “So we’ll pay maybe $1,200 for this place.”

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Nearly 100 families have told News4JAX similar stories of rent hikes beyond their budget. Some questioned the legality.

Hikes are legal, but some Florida lawmakers are trying to regulate them.

“We have many families living in hotels, living in their cars,” said State Sen. Victor Torres, who represents Central Florida.

He wants cities and counties to be able to control rents, and he introduces a bill that also says price increases must be phased in.

“And these are workers, the working class, it’s a shame that this is happening, and we have to do something about it,” he told I-TEAM.

Jacksonville City Council President Sam Newby said he wants the power to control rents, but the state needs to do something first before that happens.

“I really think they’re taking advantage of it,” he said, referring to the owners. “Due to the COVID situation and people moving north to Jacksonville.”

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“I understand that because of inflation you have to go up a bit, but $3 and $400 a month is just unacceptable,” he added.

Baffour-Singletary hopes the leaders will do something before her family’s rent goes up again.

Copyright 2022 by WJXT News4Jax – All Rights Reserved.

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