Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Land grab poses risks for region

Florida is gradually recovering from the economic recession, but a new threat from the collapse of the housing market is hitting the Tampa Bay area. Big investors have scooped up thousands of homes in recent years and are focused on charging the highest rents possible. The land grab by Wall Street has huge implications for neighborhoods throughout the region, and area leaders should remain vigilant to limit damage to the area's economy and quality of life.

The Tampa Bay Times' Drew Harwell reported that in the past two years, seven of the largest investors buying homes in the bay area have spent more than $1 billion, acquiring 6,800 homes in an unprecedented buying spree. Now these investors are pushing the envelope to return profits to Wall Street — with some pushing rents surprisingly high, evicting late-paying tenants and delaying routine maintenance. These investors landed here just as the average household spending on rent neared its highest point in three decades, consuming about one-third of a tenant's income, compared to 27 percent in 2004.

Investors and analysts say the investment in single-family houses meets a need by the so-called "rentership society" by providing homes to those unable or uninterested in purchasing them. Some families prefer single-family homes to apartments. And many younger workers prefer renting to being tied down with a mortgage. But this market is not entirely one of choice or convenience. Many renters are former homeowners who lost their credit and savings in the last housing bubble. For them, dealing with rising rents and obstinate landlords is the price they pay for bad financial luck or an earlier mistake.

As one of the areas hit hardest by the housing bubble — where the home ownership rate sank last year to its lowest point in 30 years — Tampa Bay is a guinea pig for this untested industry. Renters are sending monthly payments out of state and the local economy loses the spin-off benefits that come with investing in a family home.

State and local agencies should maintain strong consumer protection programs to ensure that renters are treated fairly. And local governments need to hold these investor-landlords to all property, health and safety standards meant to protect the neighborhoods. The foreclosure crisis left many eyesores, creating blight and trouble for local code inspectors and police.

These protections, though, are bandages compared to the larger job of fostering responsible home ownership. Planners need to develop smarter communities that reduce the reliance on automobiles. Governments also need to attract home buyers back to the urban core, where schools, transit, parks, shops and other amenities already exist.

Home ownership can create a connection in a neighborhood and increase its political clout; look no further than the neglect in Tampa's Sulphur Springs or the infamous "Suitcase City" area of northern Hillsborough to see the impact that heavily transient housing has on a community. As investor-landlords take buy up housing stock, local leaders need to keep these neighborhoods on their radar — and look for new ways to provide residents with more affordable and sustainable housing options.

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Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Writing a new law that phases out separate accreditation for the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and folds it back into the major research university was the easy part. The hard work starts today when a new consolidation task force holds i...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Correction

CorrectionCircuit Judge John Stargel of Lakeland is a member of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission who voted against a proposed amendment that would have stopped write-in candidates from closing primary elections. An editorial Saturday inco...
Published: 04/23/18
Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Not too many people took then-candidate Donald Trump seriously when he famously campaigned to "drain the swamp" as president. But that shouldn’t give this administration a free pass to excuse the behavior of Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Env...
Published: 04/22/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Allegiant Air’s safety record remains troubling, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s reluctance to talk about it is no more encouraging. Those are the key takeaways from a 60 Minutes report on the low-cost carrier’s high rate of mid-flight brea...
Published: 04/21/18

Editorial: Women’s work undervalued in bay area

Even a strong economy and low unemployment cannot overcome the persistent pay gap affecting full-time working women in Florida. A new report shows women in Florida earned 12.5 percent less on average than their male counterparts, and the disparities ...
Published: 04/21/18
Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Florida lawmakers may never take the death penalty off the books, but stronger forces are steadily eroding this inhumane, outdated tool of injustice. Court rulings, subsequent changes to law and waning public support have significantly suppressed the...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/24/18

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a lot of things wrong this week by combining unrelated or unpalatable provisions into single amendments that will appear on the November ballot. It also wasted an opportunity to do one thing right. The...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

For all the symbolism, Raul Castro’s handoff of the Cuban presidency this week amounts to less than meets the eye even if his handpicked successor, the Communist Party functionary Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, is the first person not named Castro to le...
Published: 04/20/18
Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

The Hillsborough school district planted a fruitful seed with the opening of Nature’s Classroom five decades ago on the cypress-lined banks of the Hillsborough River northeast of Tampa. • The lessons taught there to some 17,000 sixth graders each yea...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: Equality pays off on Southwest Flight 1380

The passengers of Southwest Flight 1380 can be thankful that, 33 years ago, the U.S. Navy took the lead on equal opportunity.Capt. Tammie Jo Shults was piloting the flight from New York to Dallas on Tuesday when an engine exploded, blowing out a wind...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18