TAMPA BAY, Fla. — The hands of Tampa Bay's housing market are tightening their grip on tenants. Some are lucky enough to survive the rent surges, but others are getting squeezed out of homes they have lived in for years.
"People need a place to live," Antoinette Hayes Triplett, CEO of Tampa Hillsborough Homeless Initiative said.
Hayes-Triplett oversees the government program that helped reduce Tampa Bay area homelessness during her first five years at the helm. However, the pandemic stalled progress over the past two years.
"The bottom line is the only solution to homelessness is housing," she said.
Real estate analysts tell ABC Action News there are not enough roofs to cover all the renters seeking shelter in Tampa Bay.
An analysis by real estate information company CoStar Group shows a two percent rental vacancy drop in Tampa over the last year.
Data collected by RealPage reveals property owners inflicting increased asking prices on renters. Their study shows the largest spikes in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties with the most expensive, Class A apartments growing 31 percent pricier. Class C, low-income housing rent went up 6.5 percent.
“What we need right now are landlords that are willing to step up to the plate and provide housing for people that are on the margins," Hayes-Triplett said.
However, finding those landlords may be easier said than done.
Many are hiking up prices to make up on costs and compete in the hot market, but some out there are saving room for those who desperately need it.
"They have bypassed the temptation to get greedy," Michael Raposa, CEO of St. Vincent DePaul Cares said.
Raposa said his team's primary focus is to end homelessness in the Tampa Bay area. The program just announced its success in housing 600 people experiencing homelessness in 600 days.
Most of those participants Raposa works with are stuck in generational poverty, but he said about 20 percent now find themselves fighting to stay away from an unfamiliar arena, the streets.
"They're people that have been raised by the community and have fallen on really hard times," Raposa said.
He told ABC Action News those being forced out by rent hikes as high as 50 percent are greeted with open arms by partnering property owners waiting in the wings.
"They've kept their units affordable," Raposa said.
"My rents are way below market," Phil St. Louis, a rental property owner in Pinellas County said.
St. Louis has collected and leased 64 rental units across Pinellas County since he moved to Dunedin 10 years ago. He's built a relationship with St. Vincent DePaul CARES to set aside a portion of his homes for those living without a stable one.
“We get a lot of people that are coming from homeless shelters or people that are actually living homeless," St. Louis said.
He told ABC Action News there is a laundry list of Tampa Bay residents ready to jump into any living situation he can provide.
"It's either this or the streets," he said. "This is their first step to getting their life back on track."