ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- It’s an issue that impacts all of us: The rising cost of living. Thousands of families in Tampa Bay are being priced out of a place to live.
Yet, leaders in St. Pete are determined to find new ways to encourage affordable housing development in the city. Community members are meeting with city leaders from 6-8 p.m. Tuesday at the city's main library on 9th Avenue North to brainstorm solutions.
Joan Luckey considers herself one of the lucky ones. After two years of endless searching, she landed in one of the last affordable housing units in St. Petersburg.
“I count my blessings at least I have a roof over my head," Luckey explained.
Her building, Burlington Place, is full and the waiting list is growing. Burlington Post, an affordable housing complex next door which caters to people age 55 and up, won't open for several days but is already nearly full. Management at the affordable housing complex tell ABC Action News only a few spots remain in the building.
Tykera Woods was also lucky enough to secure a spot at Burlington Place just in time for her son’s arrival.
“We were looking for a long time and I was 8 months pregnant when we finally moved in, so it was like crunch time,” she explained.
Many other families still searching. Over the past five years, the average rent in Pinellas County has increased by 46% to $1,100 dollars a month!
In St. Pete alone, nearly 800 families have affordable housing vouchers but no place to move into.
"We would call places over and over and they would be full,” Woods said with a sigh.
Now, St. Pete is looking at several options to help struggling families. First, new plans to incentivize affordable housing for builders, including giving them tax breaks and lessening the requirements, like the number of required parking spaces.
Next, the city is looking into making it easier for all residents of St. Pete to rent out rooms in their homes, garage units and mother-in-law suites to families with affordable housing vouchers.
Third, the city plans to set aside $15 million from the latest Penny For Pinellas sales tax fund to specifically go towards affordable housing.
Woods hopes it will help more families get back on their feet. “Rent is just one bill. You have other bills to pay. Places like this help you live your life without struggling,” she explained with a smile.
The city hopes to get many of the new affordable housing initiatives up and running between this Fall (2018) and this upcoming Spring (2019). Some studies have found that by 2040 the city of St. Pete have to build 2,500 new affordable units to house low-income residents.
City studies also show medical technicians, paramedics, restaurant cooks, construction workers and teachers are all among residents whose average pay is not high enough to afford rent in the city.