NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. — A Pasco County community is looking to crack down on motels offering extended stays along U.S. Highway 19.
The proposed ordinance, which aims to ban motels offering long-term rentals along U.S. 19, sparked heated debate Tuesday night between New Port Richey city officials and the owners and operators of several area motels.
City Manager Debbie Manns says some are kept in deplorable conditions and often prey on vulnerable, low-income families who have few options for housing.
"It's just absolutely unacceptable," said Manns. “Actually had people come out of their rooms and say 'please inspect this property, you won’t believe the condition I’m living in' and it’s true.”
Anthony Savarese pays nearly $1,200 a month for his room at the Royal Palm Inn, where his family of five has stayed for several weeks.
"If I don't have this, then I don't have anything. It's very stressful," said Savarese.
Coalition for the Homeless of Pasco County does not believe a ban will fix the problem. C.E.O. Don Anderson tells ABC Action News, more than 80,000 families in Pasco County have work, but do not make enough money for suitable housing.
"They can’t work enough hours to afford housing, and when they do have housing, it can consume as much as 70-80% of their income, which is unsustainable," said Anderson.
Several motel operators spoke out against the ban, leading city council members to table their first vote on the proposal.
"There’s some very long-term people, they don’t have other alternatives for living, so they’re providing a service, I think that’s a very important service to provide," said Jeff Bailey with Quality Inn.
City council members say they will meet with owners and operators in the coming days and regroup for a vote next month.