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Advocates say St. Pete needs policy changes to help fix housing crisis

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Posted at 10:30 PM, Oct 25, 2021

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla — Kalz Daniel loves St. Petersburg.

"I can't imagine living anywhere else," he said.

To make things a bit more permanent, he'd like to put down roots and buy a house. And to help reach his goal, he's been doing what all the experts say you should. But he says the finish line, keeps moving.

"I think from a personal finance perspective I've done everything you're supposed to do in order to get the house. My credit is good. I have no debt and for me, it's still an uphill journey," he said.

That's because housing costs have skyrocketed in the city. According to Zillow, in October 2019, the average cost of a house was about $200,000. Today, it's about $300,000.

"If the price isn't right, I might have to go somewhere else," said Daniel.

Jillian Bandes, the president of YIMBY St. Pete a housing advocacy group, says outdated housing rules are only compounding that problem.

"This house used to be a duplex before 1970. You're not allowed to have a duplex anymore and over time it converted to a single-family home. The developer who bought this is not allowed to bring this back to a duplex anymore because of the current regulations," she said.

Recently the city council moved to make it easier for non-residential land to be rezoned, which would free up more spaces for affordable housing. But Bandes says "upzoning" or making it easier to build multi-family homes, is the next step.

"It's all about infill," she said.

To help fix the problem a little faster, local affordable housing property manager, and developer, Trevor Mallory says the city should also make it easier to fix up abandoned properties.

"When we find some of these abandoned houses we spend about $5-$7,500 to demo this property. Why not instead of demoing it, sell it to a developer at that same rate it would cost you to demo and give them the opportunity to upgrade that house and make it affordable," he said.

But if left unchecked, it's a situation that Daniel says moves his finish line by years.

"I would say four years. I would say four years," he said.