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Priced Out of Paradise: Skyrocketing housing costs impacting everyone from single moms to senior citizens

'What am I going to do? End up in my car?' 79-year-old Port St. Lucie resident asks
Posted at 1:55 PM, Feb 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-07 18:40:25-05

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Skyrocketing rent prices in South Florida are some of the highest in the country.

For many renters, it's forcing them to look for something more affordable or in extreme cases live out of their cars.

Rents prices went up by double digits last year in West Palm Beach.

Port St. Lucie resident Tom Palomba, 79, is busy packing pots and pans and filling boxing with years of memories.

"I thought I was settled for the rest of my life," Palomba said.

He is now forced to start all over.

"What am I going to do? End up in my car? You know, at 80? I don't know? It's sad," Palomba said.

Port St. Lucie resident Tom Palomba
Tom Palomba explains how the rising housing costs have him struggling to find an adequate home.

He doesn't know what the next few months will look like.

Palomba survives off of a small disability check and has been living month-to-month in this studio apartment in Port St. Lucie for the past three years.

"First time in my life this ever happened," Palomba said.

But he was forced to move last week after he says his rent went up three times in the past year.

"This unit, this size unit right here in this complex they're going from 12-1300 now for these little units," Palomba said.

Florida, Arizona and Tennessee are the states that are experiencing the largest rent increases.

Jamie Wolf, Boca Raton single mother
Jamie Wolf fears what the cost of her next rental agreement will be as the cost of living surges in Palm Beach County.

Apartment-finder websites Zumper and say rents increased 42 percent in Port St. Lucie last year, 38 percent in West Palm Beach, 37 percent in Boca Raton and 52 percent in Vero Beach.

"That's a three-bedroom apartment that was $2,000 last year is $4,000, $5,000, so there's just nowhere to go," said resident Jamie Wolf.

She is a single mom raising her three kids in an apartment in west Boca Raton. Her lease is coming up for renewal.

"The options are not pleasant really," Wolf said.

She said her rent is about to be increased by about 50 percent. It is a huge financial struggle for her young family.

"I think it's not just out of control, but egregious. It's just like people don't matter. Families don't matter," Wolf said.

 Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith discuss cost of housing
Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith is among the Democrats demanding that the governor declare a state of emergency.

The situation is so dire that some people have been found living in their car or couch surfing. Some lawmakers are urging the governor to act.

"Right now in Florida, we're in a state of a housing affordability crisis," said Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Winter Park.

Smith said it's been decades in the making with a severe shortage of affordable housing.

He sent a joint letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis in December demanding that he declare a state of emergency regarding housing affordability.

"A lot of people don't realize that the state statute that protects consumers from price gouging can be enacted during a declared state of emergency," Smith said.

DeSantis responded during a news conference blaming the Biden administration, saying things are more expensive because of his policies.

For Palomba, the stress of finding a new home is taking a toll on his health as he searches daily desperately looking for any help.

"I'm still hoping that something positive will happen," Palomba said.