St. Pete may increase affordable housing funds from American Rescue Plan Act

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This week, St. Pete city officials presented City Council with allocation recommendations for the $45.4 million the city’s receiving from the American Rescue Plan Act. Since the city’s August presentation, there’s an increase of $5 million in funds set aside for housing affordability and support, totaling $20 million. That’s after three workshops with the community to determine how the funds should be spent. Community members spoke to council about the fund increase being a necessary starting point. Aaron Dietrich, of the SEIU’s Florida Public Service Union, told council that meetings with residents have shown that housing in the city has reached a state of emergency.

“We asked people what they needed coming out of the pandemic, and found that the issue of housing was at a crisis point in our city as rents soared more than any other metropolitan area in the United States,” Dietrich said. “They also voted unanimously that the mayor should be clear to housing state of emergency as allowed by Florida State statute so that residents would have the ability to vote on rent control measures for a period of one year.”

Rapid Rehousing funds needed

William Kilgore of the St. Pete Tenant’s Union addressed council about the need for funds allotted to rapid rehousing. 

“I talked to people all the time, some of the folks from the Stanton who had just gotten evicted are just having issues you know, getting connected with resources,” Kilgore said. “You know, people call 211. There’s just nothing there. The guys who got evicted over at Osprey point a few months back, you know, they’ve been kind of intermittently either couch-surfing, staying in an Air B&B is for a little bit. One of the guys is living in his car. Now. That’s pretty serious.”

Landlords unwilling to take vouchers

On December 9, St. Pete City Council will hear two possible ordinances aimed at addressing renters’ housing concerns. The first addresses discrimination for those attempting to seek housing using vouchers. Karla Correa, an organizer with the St. Pete Tenant’s Union, told WMNF that residents are having a hard time finding landlords willing to take the vouchers.

“In St. Pete, 83 percent of voucher holders are black women. So this is really a civil rights issue,” Correa said. “Fifteen percent of St. Petersburg vouchers are returned to the housing authority because the voucher holder was unable to find an accepting landlord so we’re trying to and that process of source of income discrimination.”

Increased notification time for month-to-month tenants

The second ordinance could require landlords for month-to-month tenancies to give a minimum 30-days-notice to vacate for residents. That’s an increase of 15 days, which Correa says is critical for those faced with losing their home. 

“As a month-to-month tenant myself, I know that my landlord really wanted to, they could literally give me 15 days to get out,” Correa. “And this brings us back to the rapid rehousing necessity an extra 15 days. I think it would materially benefit some people.”

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