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Tampa City Council unanimously passes anti-discrimination ordinance for renters

Tampa City Council meeting on 3/17/2022
Posted at 5:27 PM, Mar 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-18 05:32:15-04

TAMPA, Fla — With rental prices skyrocketing, many people in the Tampa Bay area say its a quick growing crisis that needs to be handled. Regulating rent hikes isn’t something local lawmakers can do right now because their hands are tied by the state, but today, the Tampa City Council took steps to help better protect renters and even the playing field.

Heather DeRigo’s 794 sq. foot apartment she and her son share is cozy and filled with lots of love. But, the stress of paying rent has taken its toll. The monthly rent for her apartment in Carrollwood used to be $917.

“It’ll be almost $1,500 a month which was almost a $500 increase. That was obviously a really scary thing for me to try and anticipate how I would manage,” she said.

Her apartment complex offered to drop the hike by $200 after she expressed her worries and now she’ll pay about $1,300 a month.

“But still, $300 extra every month on an ongoing basis is a challenge with a capital C,” she said. “And, I know there’s a lot of people like me that are really in situations they don’t know where that’s going to come from.”

She’s right — several people showed up inside Tampa City Council chambers Thursday to talk about their situation.

“Every community deserves justice on every block,” one woman, who spoke during public comment, said. “This is my story and this is a crisis. Rent is going up but wages aren’t.”

She told council members she’s having a hard time finding an apartment she qualifies for based on her monthly income.

Robin Lockett said while the Rental and Move-in Assistance Program announced by the city last week is appreciated, it’s not enough.

“What happens next year when the money runs out? The rent will still be higher and the wages will remain the same,” Lockett said. “This has been a crisis for the poor working class working 2 to 3 jobs to make ends meet. Now that it’s affecting others, it’s identified as a crisis.”

“Shelter is not a luxury, shelter is a necessity and the people need help,” said DeRigo.

Thursday, council members passed an ordinance they hope will help better protect renters from discrimination. Under the new ordinance, landlords must provide information on tenants’ rights under federal, state, and local law along with contact information for assistance organizations.

It also will be illegal to deny someone a place to live based on how they pay — like if they pay their rent with section 8 housing vouchers or with government assistance.

DeRigo thinks its a step in the right direction but she says more needs to be done to regulate rent hikes.

“I feel a little bit, you know, pathetic about it all right now because I feel like nobody’s really listening they’re just gonna do what they wanna do anyway and this is really not what democracy is about,” she said.

She hopes by continuing to tell her story and press state and national lawmakers eventually someone is bound to listen and take action.

“Whatever we can do to try and say let’s draw attention to this, hello people in congress, please pay attention, people in our governments, local governments as well, let’s find a solution,” she said.