St. Pete votes 6-1 to explore rent control

Dozens of speakers packed St. Pete City Hall in December 2021 to address concerns for renters. Credit: Arielle Stevenson/WMNF News

Last week, St. Pete City Council voted 6-1 to consider rent control next year. Dozens of citizens spoke to City Council about concerns over rising rents. Residents waited until almost 8 p.m. Thursday to speak at the last council meeting of the year.

Many people at risk for eviction or recently without housing asked City Council for rent control. The People’s Council of St. Pete, a citizen’s coalition, submitted over 500 signatures on a petition declaring a housing emergency and brought the council a draft ordinance for preventing rent increases for at least one year.

Aaron Dietrich, a delegate with the People’s Council of St. Pete, read demands from the petition to the council.

“We have a resolution drafted and in hand and we urge you to review it thoughtfully,” Dietrich said. “You do have the power to let residents vote on this crisis.”

Other demands include declaring housing a human right and providing residents a plan with an estimated cost for guaranteeing housing in the next city budget.

Wages stagnant as rents rise

Kimberly Weiss says lagging wages are making it even harder to pay the rent.

“It’s stressful to not know how you’re going to pay the bills when your rent goes up again, and your wages do not,” Weiss said.

In a letter last week, 22 state senators and representatives called on Gov. Ron DeSantis to declare a housing state of emergency. Rents have increased 15 to 25 percent across the state. Cricket says many blue-collar union workers, like himself, must live in the city to work there but can barely afford the rent.

“Every single union member I talked to is absolutely behind affordable housing here in the city,” he said. “Because a lot of them can’t live here. And a lot of them are living three guys to a one-bedroom apartment, and it’s not because they love each other.”

Motion passes to research rent control options

Outgoing Council member Amy Foster motioned for the new administration to consider the proposed ordinance next year. And she asked that the city attorneys bring information about all options for declaring a state of emergency. In her own work, Foster says housing insecurity causes myriad problems for the most vulnerable.

What I see every single day is the fruit of not investing in these solutions,” Foster said. “People make risky decisions when their housing unstable.”

The city council voted 6-1 to consider rent control when council resumes next year. Councilmember Robert Blackmon voted against the motion. Council member Lisa Wheeler-Bowman was absent. Incoming Mayor Ken Welch and a council which includes several new incoming members will take up the issue in the New Year.

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