Advertisement
  1. News
  2. /
  3. Hillsborough

Hillsborough County to spend $10 million a year on affordable housing

Commissioners vote to create housing trust fund to build and preserve affordable housing with half earmarked for low-income poorest families.
Sweetwater Villas, one of the newest affordable housing complexes in Hillsborough County, was built through a county partnership with Blue Sky Communities. This week, Hillsborough County committed to make $10 million available annually for an affordable housing trust fund.
Published Sep. 6
Updated Sep. 8

TAMPA — Until he became homeless, Terry Lofton was spending more than half of his monthly disability check on the $500 rent for a one-room studio.

Now he is sleeping on his cousin’s floor.

“It’s embarrassing,” said Lofton, 61, who has recently worked as a security guard and housekeeper.

For the past six years, the faith-based group HOPE has battled to get Hillsborough County leaders to make a long-term commitment to provide housing for people like Lofton, who struggle with the Tampa Bay region’s rising rental costs.

So the group celebrated this week as the county’s new Democrat-majority commission pledged to set aside $10 million every year for an affordable housing trust fund.

The fund will be used both as a subsidy and incentive for the construction and preservation of affordable housing. Construction will be done through partnerships with non-profit groups and affordable housing developers. The money can also be used to purchase land suitable for affordable housing.

At least half the money must be spent on housing for low-income families. That includes 30 percent for households categorized as “very-low income.” Based on federal calculations used for housing vouchers, a household of four people would need a combined gross income of less than $33,500 to meet that criteria.

“Investing in ways to increase access to affordable housing is critically important to our communities,” said Commissioner Kimberly Overman. “When we don’t, we end up with homelessness.”

Recent studies have shown how difficult it is for Tampa Bay’s lowest paid families to keep a roof over their head.

The $1,133 average rent for a two-bedroom apartment here is well beyond the reach of minimum wage and other low-paid workers, a study released in June by the National Low Income Housing Coalition found.

A salary of $21.79 an hour — more than $13 above the state’s minimum wage — would be needed for that rent to be “affordable,” which is defined as spending no more than 30 percent of a person’s income on rent. Households that exceed that threshold risk spiraling into debt.

RELATED STORY: New study says minimum wage worker would need to work almost three full-time jobs to afford two-bedroom rental

The crisis has been exacerbated by the Florida Legislature continually raiding the statewide Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust. Since 2001, lawmakers have siphoned more than $2 billion from the trust into general revenue, according to a Senate report.

The money for Hillsborough’s new trust will come from the county’s general fund. Commissioner Sandy Murman said she is concerned a majority of the money will end up being spent inside the city of Tampa at the expense of unincorporated Hillsborough.

“We’re doing a huge favor to the city of Tampa by doing this,” Murman said. “The Mayor should be sending us a grand thank you note.”

But other commissioners said it makes sense to build affordable housing close to work centers and proposed transit routes expected to be funded by the transportation sales tax.

The creation of a housing trust fund is a significant u-turn for the county. In recent years, it made money available for low-cost housing — as much as $5.1 million in 2018 — but commissioners had been reluctant to make the long-term commitment required for a trust.

Commission Chairman Les Miller acknowledged that it was the persistence of members of HOPE, which is made up of members of local churches, that led the board to relent. Its members frequently packed commission meetings wearing purple HOPE T-shirts.

“Your tenacity on this issue for the last six or seven years has been frightening to a certain extent,” Miller joked. “You hung in there.”

The vote was welcomed by former Republican commissioner Victor Crist, one of the few members of the previous board who consistently voted for a housing trust fund.

“The cost of living has been growing significantly in Florida, most especially the Tampa Bay area, and the need for affordable housing has become very critical,” he said.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. For the latest news and information, go to tampabay.com. TMCCARTY  |  times staff
    Hillsborough County Sheriff’s deputies are investigating. No arrests have been made.
  2. The scene of the car crash off of north I-275 on Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019 that killed Cliff J. Pierre Jacques. Florida Highway Patrol
    The crash was alcohol related, troopers say.
  3. Lykes Gaslight Square Park in downtown Tampa, where a proposal to open a cafe has sparked debate on the role of parks in the city. SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Two recent proposals to use public space downtown for private eateries have started a debate about the purpose of parks
  4. Jeremy Guerrero, 31, was arrested on charges of DUI manslaughter and driving with a license suspended or revoked involving death, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. He's accused of being impaired by methamphetamines when troopers said he caused a crash on Interstate 75 that killed a woman early Friday. Florida Highway Patrol
    The 31-year-old driver faces a charge of DUI manslaughter after causing the crash that killed a 57-year-old woman, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.
  5. The $3 billion Water Street project is slated to be complete by 2026 or 2027. How affordable will it be? SHADD, DIRK  |  Tampa Bay Times
    A project executive ticked off many ways the $3 billion project will alter Tampa, but a Cafe con Tampa audience wanted details on what it will cost to live there
  6. WeWork is opening Tampa offices at 501 E Kennedy Blvd. despite company struggles, including $1.25 billion in losses over 2019. SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times
    WeWork has 200 planned coworking space openings as leadership tries to manage $1.25 billion in losses.
  7. Titan Goodson points to visitors in the courtroom during his unsuccessful motion to dismiss the manslaughter charge against him Thursday. SCOTT KEELER  |  Scott Keeler
    Titan Goodson’s lawyer argued there was no proof he supplied the heroin that killed Katie Golden, 17. Trial is set for December.
  8. A 20-year-old Plant City man was seriously injured Thursday night after he lost control of the car he was driving on the Selmon Expressway and hit a guardrail, which Florida Highway Patrol troopers said “impaled” the car. FHP
    The driver was taken to Tampa General Hospital with serious injuries.
  9. Steven Currall prepares to deliver an address during his investiture as the University of South Florida's seventh president Thursday at the Yuengling Center in Tampa. MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE  |  Times
    Though he started the job in July, Steve Currall is officially installed as president on his 137th day in office.
  10. Apollo Global Management has offered $130 per share for Tech Data's stock in an acquisition worth $5.4 billion. If regulators shareholders approve, the home-grown company will remain based in Pinellas County, where it employs 2,000 of its 14,000 workers. DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Private equity firms like Apollo create wealth for pension funds, financial institutions and individual investors by buying assets that typically are sold later at a profit.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement