Rent skyrockets in Tampa Bay as leaders vow to prioritize affordable housing

Noble Horvath

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — Rent prices have shot up 46% over the past five years in Pinellas County and that’s leading to hundreds of families finding themselves in a desperate search for affordable housing. By 2045, local planning leaders say 1 million more people will move to Pinellas, Hillsborough and […]

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — Rent prices have shot up 46% over the past five years in Pinellas County and that’s leading to hundreds of families finding themselves in a desperate search for affordable housing.

By 2045, local planning leaders say 1 million more people will move to Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco counties.

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Chassidy Calloway can’t help by wonder where are they going to live… and how will they afford it?

“Rent is expensive. It’s a lot. You really have to search and try to find something that’s affordable for you,” she explained.

Calloway says when her lease expired at her last apartment, the rent was set to spike hundreds of dollars.

“Coming from Louisiana, where everything is way cheaper than here, it’s kinda hard,” she added.

Pinellas County leaders say someone would need to make $23.19 an hour in order to comfortably afford rent in the county. That means if you work for minimum wage, you would need nearly three different full-time jobs.

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Rodney Chatman with Forward Pinellas says the rent is now so high that many families are choosing to live in nearby counties, instead.

“That means they have to get in their car and drive to work every day and that adds additional congestion to our already congested roadways,” Chatman elaborated.

Pinellas County leaders met to combat the problem Friday. One major solution is using $80 million dollars from the Penny for Pinellas sales tax over the next 10 years to build new workforce housing.

Yet, county leaders say there are challenges too including finding enough land, attracting developers and dealing with the “not in my back yard” argument from neighbors.

Dr. Tiffany Manuel, from TheCaseMade, sees similar problems nationwide.

“People think that they’re losing something because we are trying to build more affordable housing, but let me tell you something, you should be more concerned about what you’re going to lose if you don’t lean into affordable housing,” she said noting extensive problems with homelessness in places like California.

The idea in Tampa Bay is to make the apartments look just like market-rate units, which helps to erase any stigma.

County leaders say affordable housing is now their top priority, especially as many families face job losses during the pandemic.

For more information on Pinellas County’s plan to address the issue of affordable housing, check out this website: https://www.homesforpinellas.org

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