NewsPrice of Paradise


As rents continue to increase, Polk County has more help to give

Qualified renters can apply for assistance through the county's Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP).
Posted at 5:08 AM, Jun 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-29 07:26:13-04

From her office in Lakeland, Andrea Mosley hears painful stories daily.

“We get an increasing number of people every day calling,” Mosley said.

Rent is increasing. Groceries and gas are too. Incomes, however, are staying the same, and renters across Polk County are struggling to hang on.

“People are increasingly more desperate all the time,” said Mosley, with the Florida Rural Legal Services branch in Polk County. “The rent prices are exceeding people’s abilities to find reasonable and affordable housing, and I really believe at this point there is not really any such thing as affordable housing.”

In fact, according to one study of real estate trends by Point2 Homes, rents are up in Lakeland by about 18.2% from where they were a year ago. According to the National Equity Atlas, 11,060 Polk County households are behind on rent. According to the same data set, the average rent debt per household in the county is $1,400.

“An increase that may not be as high in other places has a dramatic effect in rural areas because the income tends to be lower,” said Mosley.

Mosley, though, makes it her mission to help. As rent assistance funds dry up in other places, she said Polk County has more to give.

A county program she helps administer — the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) — is set up to make direct payments to landlords, property management companies, and utility companies on behalf of Polk County renters who qualify. Those renters may be eligible for up to $12,000 in assistance.

“I always advise people to reach out as soon as you can,” Mosley said. “It has helped a great deal of people and will continue to.”

In fact, she believes the remaining funds could help hundreds of more families.

To qualify, though, you must be a renter in Polk County. You must be financially impacted because of the COVID-19. Additionally, your household median income must be at or below 80% of the Area Median Income, which is summarized in the chart below:

Polk Co rent chart.png

To read about a few other qualifications and find links and contact info to apply, click here or here.

As Tampa Bay continues to attract new residents and businesses, the impact of living in paradise comes at a cost for all of us— from the increasing cost of housing and infrastructure to utilities and insurance. ABC Action News is committed to helping you and your family make the most of your money and navigate through the Price of Paradise.