ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Tenants in St. Petersburg rallied outside city hall, Thursday night, speaking out against rising rent prices. They are demanding the city declare a housing state of emergency.
“People are willing to stand together on this because it’s at that point. This is an emergency and we’ve got to act," Aaron Dietrich of People's Council of St. Pete said.
If the City of St. Petersburg decides to declare a state of emergency, it could lead to a referendum where residents vote on rent control for a temporary one year period. Dietrich and other tenants are giving the city one week to make a decision.
“If we still don’t get a response, we’re willing to move to a tent city occupation, which I think might make a lot of sense, right? If you’re losing your home people are saying, ‘Well, I’ll go stay on the steps of city hall where they need to see that,'" Dietrich said.
The demand is also a desperate cry for many in St. Petersburg who have nowhere to call home.
“I’ve just been couch surfing and I can’t find anything at all even remotely affordable," Camille Law said.
Law lost her apartment four months ago after she could no longer afford her rent. She lost her job soon after.
Now, she lives day to day, even meal to meal in the hopes she will one day find stable housing in Pinellas County.
“I drew up a budget yesterday, I’m not going to be able to afford rent here, period," Law said. "I’m hungry and I need a place to put me and my cat as soon as possible, for sure.”
Law and other tenants urge the City of St. Petersburg to do something, whether it is establishing a landlord registry or a six-month notice of rent increases. They say anything helps.
“They’re losing their homes and they’re losing their communities. We’re going to stand by that because we’re experiencing it and no one can explain to us that it’s not an emergency," Dietrich said.
St. Petersburg City Council voted, Thursday night, to reevaluate the city's American Rescue Plan funds for rental assistance. Last week, city leaders decided against adding temporary rent controls and declaring a state of emergency due to legal concerns.
The council will discuss rental assistance at its meeting on March 3.