NewsPrice of Paradise


St. Pete group asks incoming mayor for quick action on rent control, housing emergency declaration

The People's Council of St. Petersburg hopes incoming-Mayor Ken Welch will take quick action once sworn in Thursday
st pete rent.jpg
Posted at 7:29 AM, Jan 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-05 08:10:06-05

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — As a new mayor prepares to take office in St. Pete, Aaron Dietrich is hopeful. He’s hopeful for meaningful change that will turn the tide of the ongoing housing crisis.

In 2021, the price of rent increased 24% in St. Pete, according to the Business Observer. That constituted the third-highest rental spike in the nation.

“There’s no greater priority for a city and its public safety than that basic foundation of housing,” said Dietrich. “There’s no question. People feel that basic foundation is incredibly threatened right now.”

Dietrich is a community organizer with the People’s Council of St. Petersburg — a collection of union representatives, city workers, and others — that is pushing for change and hoping the incoming mayor, Ken Welch, will deliver solutions.

Particularly, Dietrich and the People’s Council have drafted a resolution that, if passed by St. Pete City Council, would declare a housing “state of emergency.”

As part of that resolution, the People’s Council is also urging the city council to allow St. Pete voters the opportunity to approve rent control measures for a one-year period.

According to the People’s Council resolution, state law would require such a “rent freeze” to be enacted through a referendum and could include exemptions for vacation properties and “luxury” units.

“What we’re really hoping to do with the incoming Administration and all residents of goodwill — whether they’re renters or landlords or what have you — is to put our hearts and minds together and have a conversation about how we secure that right to housing for all of our people,” said Dietrich.

In December, city council members voted 6-1 to study the idea of an emergency declaration and rent control.

Now, Dietrich is hoping the new mayor will help amplify the discussion and consideration of the emergency measures.

“This moment really calls us all to action. We feel that sense of urgency every single day,” he said. “We’re seeing people really in despair, so every day that passes, you know, we understand the challenges ahead of us, but we can’t ignore the pain that we hear every single day.”

One landlord with multiple properties in the area said he’s not a fan of the idea of rent control, and neither is the Institute of Real Estate Management, which says it can cause the loss of current housing and discourage new construction too.

Dietrich, however, says something must be done.

“You know, a lot of these conversations, frankly, I feel like they could be left for the debate class. Right now, what we’re trying to do is find solutions,” he said. “We want to see people in homes. That’s the only ideology that we’re interested in talking about is what works to keep people in their homes.”

Welch will be sworn in during a virtual ceremony Thursday at 11:15 a.m.

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.