Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Clearwater Housing Authority tells low-income renters to sleep two to a room

CLEARWATER — Low-income Clearwater residents receiving vouchers to help pay their rent will have to bunk two to a bedroom — even if they are of the opposite sex — under a policy change by the Clearwater Housing Authority.

The agency made the change April 1 because it is getting less money from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development these days, and it also wants to whittle away at its voucher waiting list, which has about 250 families on it.

Clearwater is the first housing authority in Pinellas to adopt the policy.

The new rule can be waived for some medical conditions that would make it difficult for an individual to share a room, said Jacqueline Rivera, the housing authority's CEO, but it scraps previous accommodations for opposite-sex siblings or relatives.

The Section 8 program requires residents to pay about 30 percent of their income on rent, with the federal government picking up the rest of the amount landlords charge. The housing authority has about $9 million in Section 8 funds available, Rivera said.

"Change is tough. I feel for folks," Rivera said, adding that some of the approximately 1,100 households receiving the agency's Section 8 vouchers had complained.

But she said housing assistance is meant to be temporary and no-frills.

"It's meant to be a stop-gap measure, not a cradle-to-grave service. Two to a room isn't the worst thing in the world. It beats living in a shelter," she said.

David McKibben, a landlord who owns a three-bedroom duplex near Betty Lane and Seminole Street in north Clearwater, said he is concerned for his tenants.

"I don't feel comfortable putting a girl and boy in the same room," McKibben said.

Tenants can stay in their current housing, but will have to pay more in rent if they don't double up in bedrooms. For example, two people living in a two-bedroom apartment would only receive a voucher for a one-bedroom unit. The tenants would owe more out of their own pockets unless their landlord agreed to lower the rent or accept less money, Rivera said.

About 25 percent of Clearwater's Section 8 tenants — 280 or so families — should expect to be affected by the new policy, Rivera said. The average difference in monthly rent will be about $150 for those tenants who choose not to double up, she said.

HUD suggested the two-people-to-a-room option in 2011, telling cash-strapped housing authorities that they could require the doubling-up to help patch holes in their budget.

The new policy will also allow the housing authority to hold a lottery later this year for the approximately 250 families on its Section 8 waiting list, "rather than turn them away at the door," Rivera said.

The St. Petersburg Housing Authority and the Pinellas County Housing Authority haven't adopted the two-to-a-bedroom rule, although officials at both agencies said they might consider such an option in the future.

The housing authorities in Dunedin and Tarpon Springs don't offer Section 8 assistance.

Charlie Frago can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4159. Follow him on Twitter @CharlieFrago.

Clearwater Housing Authority tells low-income renters to sleep two to a room 04/25/14 [Last modified: Friday, April 25, 2014 6:40pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. 'Me too': Alyssa Milano urged assault victims to tweet in solidarity. The response was massive.

    Human Interest

    Actor Alyssa Milano took to Twitter on Sunday with an idea, suggested by a friend, she said.

    Within hours of Alyssa Milano’s tweet, tweets with the words “me too” began appearing. By 3 a.m. Monday, almost 200,000 metoo tweets were published by Twitter’s count.
  2. Tampa tax shelter schemer too fat for his prison term, attorney says


    TAMPA — A federal judge sentenced two Bay area men to prison terms last week for peddling an offshore tax shelter scheme that cost the IRS an estimated $10 million.

    Duane Crithfield and Stephen Donaldson Sr. were sentenced to prison after marketing a fraudulent offshore tax strategy known as a "Business Protection Plan" to medical practices, offering doctors and others coverage against unlikely events such as a kidnapping.

  3. Weinstein Co., overwhelmed by backlash, may be up for sale


    NEW YORK — The Weinstein Co., besieged by sexual harassment allegations against its namesake and co-founder, may be putting itself up for sale.

  4. Trial begins in 2014 death of 19-month-old Tampa girl


    TAMPA — Even before his trial officially began, Deandre Gilmore had planted his gaze on the floor of Judge Samantha Ward's courtroom Monday, taking a deep breath and shifting in his seat as a pool of 60 potential jurors learned of his charges.

  5. Rick Pitino officially fired by Louisville amid federal corruption probe


    In an expected move, the University of Louisville Athletic Association's Board of Directors on Monday voted unanimously to fire men's basketball coach Rick Pitino. The decision came 19 days after Louisville acknowledged that its men's basketball program was being investigated as part of a federal corruption probe and …

    In this Oct. 20, 2016, file photo, Louisville head basketball coach Rick Pitino reacts to a question during a press conference in Louisville, Ky. Louisville's Athletic Association on Monday officially fired Pitino, nearly three weeks after the school acknowledged that its men's basketball program is being investigated as part of a federal corruption probe. [AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley, File]