Tampa Bay renters seeing highest rent surges in the US; tenants search for relief

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Posted at 11:00 PM, Nov 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-15 13:55:34-05

Tampa Bay residents are seeing the highest rent surges in the country, according to real estate analytics.

“We’ve never seen this type of growth in Tampa before,” said Jay Lybik, CosStar National Director of Multifamily Analytics. “Tampa Bay is seeing rent growth twice the rate as the nation as a whole.”

The real estate analytics company found monthly prices for rental prices in Tampa Bay spiked 24.8% from July to September. According to Lybik, the rest of the United States saw an 11% increase.

“You can’t afford to live, but you can’t afford to not have a roof over your head,” Alison Hilbert said.

Hilbert and her husband, Chris Hilbert, exchanged vows and tied the knot just a few weeks ago. But, for the Hilberts, getting married was not the only thing on their mind.

“About four days before my wedding I just walked up to my door and saw that we had our lease renewal,” Hilbert said.

The offer to live in their Palm Harbor home for another year was $2,246 per month, up from the $1,580 the Hilberts paid before.

“We just kind of broke down. I broke down,” Hilbert said. “We felt like we got evicted.”

The Hilberts are victims of a red-hot rental housing market in the Tampa Bay area. According to Lybik, there is not enough housing in Tampa Bay to keep up with the record-high demand.

“It has gotten tight very fast,” he said.

It is evident, not only in the surging rental prices but the number of tenants seeking help with housing finances.

“We get people who are desperate for our assistance,” Luisa Rodriguez Zmoda said.

Rodriguez Zmoda is a social services training specialist for Hillsborough County. She works with dozens of residents and property owners, daily, to facilitate relief for late rental payments.

As part of the R3 Emergency Rental Assistance Program, Rodriguez Zmoda and others have approved $40 million of CARES Act dollars to over 9,200 Hillsborough County residents since March. In total, Hillsborough County has facilitated more than $75 million since the program launched in 2020.

However, some of the trouble comes in finding cooperative landlords. Rodriguez Zmoda said some landlords are opting to find tenants elsewhere who can make their own monthly payments in order to keep up with the stiff competition.

“They’re not as flexible, because they have an opportunity to bring someone else in who will be able to pay for that rent,” she said.

After a lengthy search for the Hilberts, they found their next home in Hillsborough County. Monthly payments are near $2,000.

When the couple returns from their honeymoon in Honduras, they’ll be right back at work putting in 60 hours per week to make sure their now-married ends meet.

“We just need to make sure that we can keep a roof over our heads,” Hilbert said.

Hillsborough County is now launching the fourth phase of its rental assistance program. Visit the R3 Emergency Rental Assistance Program web page to learn how to apply.