St. Petersburg tenants say rental assistance programs aren’t enough for today’s market

The housing market around Tampa Bay continues to be hot and many families are being pushed out of the market.

In St. Petersburg, rents have increased by more than 25%. City officials say more developers are stepping up housing construction with reduced rents for the city’s workforce, but tenants say long-term solutions don’t meet residents’ immediate needs.

They see the constant construction of luxury skyscrapers downtown and ask the city to implement a housing emergency.

Mayor Ken Welch’s new administration says it is making progress, but is stalling ahead of emergency measures.

“There are conversations with the school board about teacher housing, there are conversations with us about employee housing,” Deputy Mayor Stephanie Owens told FOX 13.

The city just received an additional $14 million from the county as part of a fund to help those behind on rent.

This rental assistance program is intended to help, for example, a family of four earning $59,000 per year or less, or a single person earning $41,000 or less.

Renters say the program is a start, but it doesn’t help those who have to move into the city, or to the city, to afford the price hike.

A tenant tells FOX 13 that he was evicted after his rent was increased and the incentive program doesn’t go far enough.

“These are freebies to the landlords, these inducements…they don’t really prevent the landlord from raising the rent and if they get some money they can just say, ‘We’re raising the rent,'” commented the tenant.

The city says its goal is to add more housing options to reduce demand and costs. Officials pointed to Skyway Lofts, a new complex with units offered at discounted rates, depending on the tenant’s income level.

“I’ve found, during my short time here at City Hall, that developers understand. We have conversations about how they can be more creative and innovative,” Owens said.

Another ongoing development is Orange Station, a mixed-use development going to where the police department once stood.

One section will be made up of condos and the other will be income-based apartments. The mayor’s office says it’s pushing for more projects like this to come downtown.