St. Pete approves two rental housing ordinances

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Last week, dozens of residents with the St. Pete Tenant’s Union urged St. Pete City Council to vote against two housing ordinances the union had formerly supported. The first ordinance originally extended notice to vacate for landlords of month-to-month tenants from 15 days to 30 days. But in the ordinance that passed, it was changed to 21 days. Karla Correa, activist, and organizer with the Tenants Union, says the compromise was 30 days.

“When people have a really short period of time to leave and no money, it can cause them to slip into housing instability,” Correa said.

St. Pete approves shorter notice for month-to-month renters

The Tenant’s Union says pressure from the local landlord group, the Bay Area Apartment Association is responsible for the 9-day change. That led to disruptions in the audience, which caused Council to recess during public comment. Some were escorted out by security.

Manolo Martinez, who works in a non-profit, says that 21 days is simply not enough time.

“I work with the emergency rental assistance and it takes about a month for them to get all the documents prepared,” Martinez said. “Keep in mind that many of them are working. Many of them have kids, many of them have families. There’s a reason why they need this assistance. And it’s not because they have time.”

Eric Garduno, a representative from the Bay Area Apartments Association spoke in support of the ordinance.

“Moving it to 21 days preserves that opportunity for a resident to give notice,” Garduno said. “You want to get rid of that then that’s going to hurt every renter out there that aren’t represented here.”

Rent in St. Pete has jumped 24 percent in one year

According to the newspaper the Business Observer, St. Pete had the third-highest spike in rental prices in the country. The average monthly cost of a one-bedroom in the city has gone up 24 percent to $1,620. Mischa Robson, of Central Florida Jobs with Justice, says that greater housing protections for working-class residents are needed.

“It takes way more than 15 days to find adequate housing in the city,” Robson said.

With no discussion from the council, the first ordinance passed with only one dissenting vote, from Councilmember Lisa Wheeler-Bowman. The second ordinance concerned ending discrimination against people using housing vouchers. Resident, Bratton Young, says the changed ordinance will hurt working people.

“I assume everybody on this council has been assisted by hospital workers has probably been greeted by hospitality workers,” Young said. “These are the types of workers who rely on minimum wages. These are the people who are going to be hurt by this.”

The second, ordinance, against the source of income discrimination, passed unanimously, with some changes to the language regarding how landlords can calculate income from other sources. The effective date for the ordinances is April 1, 2022.  The last city council meeting of the year is scheduled for next Thursday, the Tenant’s Union says they plan to be there.

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