TAMPA, Fla. — Rent prices are increasing faster in Tampa Bay than almost anywhere else in the country and the world!
Now, a group of Tampa renters are getting ready to pack city hall on Thursday, February 24 to demand help.
On that day at 1:30PM, more than 100 people plan to wear red shirts and let city leaders know they’re in the middle of a housing crisis and that immediate solutions are desperately needed.
Tampa ranks 4th in the US and 9th in the world for the worst change in renting affordability, according to a recent study by Online Mortgage Advisor.
The average studio apartment in Tampa is renting out right now for just over $1,700.That’s up about 30% from last year.
New Tampa resident Robin Lockett likes to be proactive, so she recently asked her landlord for an estimate of how much her rent could increase. The answer? Between $150 and $300 a month.
“I couldn’t afford it. I could not afford it and I don’t think that anybody can. It’s just unconscionable. It really is,” she explained.
Lockett says thousands of Tampa families are finding themselves in her shoes.
“It’s bad and people are scared. You have people that have full time jobs that are sleeping in their cars now because they can’t afford rent. You have people doubling and tripling in a household because they can’t afford rent,” Lockett added.
The average person in Tampa Bay is spending close to half of their monthly salary on rent.
Now, several renters are asking Tampa leaders to declare a state of emergency, allowing rent control and other measures to be placed on a ballot.
If that’s not an option, renters are hoping to extend the window to 6 months that landlords need to notify tenants of rent increases.
“No one is taking into consideration the people who are really trying to live and not just make this a vacation home or an extended home. We actually live here, and we can’t afford it,” Crystal Robles elaborated.
Robles is now 3 months into her search for a new apartment and she tells ABC Action News Reporter Sarah Hollenbeck that she hasn’t had much luck.
“You have to have two or three jobs and with this rate increase because most apartments have gone up $500-$600 and it doesn’t matter where you are in the city,” Robles added.
Across the bay, St. Pete leaders recently shot down a proposal to declare a housing emergency after the city attorney in St. Petersburg warned they could be sued over any rent control measures since Florida state laws preempt rent control.
Aaron Deitrich with the People’s Council of St. Pete says they aren’t giving up.
“I understand they are scared about lawsuits, but it’s really hard to put a price tag on doing the right thing right now for people struggling to hang on in the city they love. So, we are resolute to keep on fighting,” he explained.
Deitrich says they’re even willing to camp outside city hall until city leaders take action. “People are kind of running out of rope here and the idea of going to city hall to sleep in a tent doesn’t sound much worse than the reality they are facing anyway of facing homelessness because they can’t afford rent,” he added.
Renters on both sides of the bay are teaming up to demand solutions.
“We understand progress is necessary but not at the cost of the people who are the foundation of the city,” Robles said.
Renters plan to wear red to Thursday’s 1:30 Tampa City Council meeting as they demand solutions to reducing rent.
St. Petersburg leaders will discuss rental assistance at a meeting on March 3, 2022.