ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Thousands of families across Tampa Bay are struggling to pay rent. St. Petersburg leaders are looking at a new, innovative idea to help families make ends meet, at a time when money from the state has been slashed.
40% of families in Tampa Bay struggle to get by because more than 30% of their income goes towards rent, according to FAST, a group of clergy members who continue to push for affordable housing.
Greg Hagan Jr. knows that feeling well. He and his fiancé spent more than a year looking for an affordable place to live.
“Everywhere we looked, even at run down places, the rent was crazy high," he explained.
Katrina Boozy was in the same boat after she could no longer afford the mortgage on her home. She also spent a year looking for a place she could afford to move into.
Both are now among the lucky ones. Hagan and Boozy recently moved into a new affordable housing building in St. Petersburg.
Nearly 2,000 families in Pinellas County are on waiting lists for affordable housing, and things are about to get worse: The state shortchanged cities thousands of dollars local municipalities use to build affordable housing units, in order to pay for safety upgrades at schools.
“And that money really should be dedicated to affordable housing,” explained Rob Gerdes in the city of St. Pete's neighborhood affairs department.
St. Pete leaders just approved a plan Thursday that they hope will encourage builders to make affordable housing a priority. The city will soon waive impact fees and reduce requirements, like large parking lots, to make it cheaper for construction crews to get started on affordable apartments.
They’re also looking at a more heavy-handed measure, which would require every apartment building in the city to make a portion of their apartments affordable. Another option is to require every development being construction to pay a flat amount to the city for future affordable housing projects.
Hagan hopes those changes will pave other families to find a safe place to live, too. "It’s a huge blessing for my family and I. We are now able to save and have a good home.”