Pandemic highlights affordable housing problems across the country

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Posted at 6:14 AM, Nov 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-17 08:22:22-05

TAMPA, Fla. — The year may be coming to an end, but for thousands of people in the Tampa Bay area, there's no end in sight when it comes to affordable housing.

Before the pandemic, Lorna Carrasquillo, her husband, and son lived in a modest home in Tampa for three years.

They were able to get by with their bills and make the rent payments, but when the pandemic hit all three of them lost their jobs and income.

No income meant they fell behind on their rent and were eventually evicted from their home. She said the landlord wouldn't budge when it came to repayment.

"It came out to the point that I owed her six, five months and I told her I had half of the money and she didn't want to deal with me," Carrasquillo said.

She and her family are now living in a motel room near Busch Gardens.

She said her story is like that of so many other families.

"There's a whole bunch of families here with kids," Carrasquillo said.

Cheryl Howell with Hillsborough County Affordable Housing Services knows this story all too well.

She has more than three decades of experience working in the affordable housing sector and three years with Hillsborough County specifically.

"One out of every five families or 20% of our families pay more than 50%of all of their income for housing costs," Howell said.

That means any little life inconvenience like a hospital trip, new tires, and a pandemic could cause a financial domino effect.

"We do understand that once a family becomes homeless it is very very difficult for them to rebound," Howell said.

Through CARES Act funding Howell said the county was able to help about 5,000 families, but the need is still there.

She said the Tampa Housing Authority, the organization that helps with housing vouchers has the numbers to prove it.

"That system, I want to say they have over 20,000 people on their wait list and they're not able to skip people you know many of the people on that wait list are homeless," Howell said.

Carrasquillo tried to get government assistance but said she's been denied time and time again.

"Just because we're low income people doesn't mean we're low people, we're criminals. You know we try to make a living. You know there's people that work hard. They get up. But when they need help all the doors are shut," Carrasquillo said.

As the county works to solidify more funding for people like Carrasquillo, she said all she can do now is keep the faith and hope things will turn around.

"We are managing little by little. We go to the churches and get food and things like that. That's how we're passing it through," Carrasquillo said.

For more information about services available in Hillsborough County click here or contact:

Affordable Housing Services
Phone: 813-635-1610

Michael Roberts
Phone: 561-491-1670