ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — “We’re out here demonstrating,” said Karla Correa, demonstration organizer for the St. Petersburg Tenants Union.
People are demanding action from St. Petersburg City Council.
“We’re out here to convince our city council to listen to the people and put rent control on the ballot because people are being evicted, their rents are being doubled and tripled and the people are suffering,” said Rev. Andy Oliver, Pastor for Allendale United Methodist Church.
Demonstrators started camping outside of city hall at 9 p.m. on Wednesday to send a message to city leaders.
“People are getting displaced, kicked out of their homes, and we’re tired of it,” said Correa.
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According to city documents, an analysis conducted by the St. Petersburg Tenants Union and information from the Pinellas County Clerk of Court show from April 2020-2022, there were 8,585 residential evictions in Pinellas County, with 4,501 of those filed in the city of St. Petersburg.
Last week, city council members voted to move forward on crafting a resolution that could lead to rent control being added to the November ballot.
They’re meeting again on Thursday to discuss the measure.
“If they fail to pass an emergency ordinance, then we’ll escalate. We have to create the urgency in our city council to do something for people because they are suffering,” said Oliver.
Some leaders worry this could set St. Pete up for lawsuits because state law prohibits rent control.
“I prefer to spend the money we have for affordable housing on actual initiatives that can work and would not draw legal challenge as this is likely to do. I want us to get bolder and find real solutions that work beyond affordable housing. Let’s look at our programs. Let’s see how we can pump that up. I want to move forward with things that work and don’t get us sued,” said council member Gina Driscoll.
However, protesters argue that’s not enough.
“Nobody should be getting exorbitant rent increases. We’re going to fight it everywhere. We’re not going to let this continue to happen. It has to stop,” said Correa.
Demonstrators told ABC Action News they’re asking council members to pass a resolution on Thursday for the purpose of a rent stabilization referendum to be added to the November ballot so voters can decide.
“No matter what their opinion is on rent control, we want them to put it on the ballot and let the people decide because people know what’s best for them and their lives,” said Oliver.
Thursday’s meeting starts at 1:30 p.m.