PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — It’s consistently getting harder to find affordable housing in Tampa Bay. Rent prices are skyrocketing faster in the Tampa Bay region than most other places in the nation, with price hikes as much as 25% between 2021 and 2022, according to data from apartmentlist.com.
In Pinellas County, the biggest issue keeping developers from building more affordable units is the lack of land.
With land so hard to come by, Pinellas Co. leaders are now turning to something they haven’t before: surplus land. That’s land that was purchased for projects that didn’t end up being used, land once destined for right of way, or land the county receives when an owner doesn’t pay property taxes.
Commissioner Rene Flowers helped bring the concept forward to county government leaders.
“It can make a huge difference because we have so many people who have been asking for development but the issue has been land," she said. As you all know, we’re a built out community."
Some of the surplus properties owned by the county are irregular or too small to build on, but leaders have found at least 19 pieces of land, including one at the intersection of McMullen Booth and Sunset Point near Safety Harbor, that can be sold to developers with the hope of creating more workforce housing.
“We have so many people searching for housing right now," Flowers said. "It’s our teachers, it’s our students returning from college, doctors and lawyers some of them. It’s not just people down on their luck and need that assistance."
The Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council is working with counties and cities across Tampa Bay to look into their surplus land, as well.
CJ Reynolds said it’s an important mission.
“We’re really taking some forward, bold moves to look at how to really use land. Everyone takes this issue of housing availability very seriously,” she said.
Pinellas County plans to start marketing the first wave of surplus land immediately to developers.
On Tuesday, Pinellas County Commissioners declared the first 15 county-owned lawn parcels as surplus and gave their go ahead to start advertising and preparing to sell off the land that is poised for development.