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Tampa looks to Miami-Dade, Gainesville for help on housing crunch

City Council members directed lawyers to study efforts elsewhere in Florida to strengthen tenant rights and hold landlords accountable.
Tampa City Council member Guido Maniscalco said Thursday that Tampa should study how Miami-Dade County has tackled rising rents. His idea gained unanimous approval.
Tampa City Council member Guido Maniscalco said Thursday that Tampa should study how Miami-Dade County has tackled rising rents. His idea gained unanimous approval. [ ARIELLE BADER | Special to the Times ]
Published May 26

TAMPA — Tampa City Council members Thursday unanimously agreed to direct city lawyers to study how Gainesville and Miami have tackled their own housing crises.

In Gainesville, a landlord complaint registry has helped curb abuses, say housing advocates. Tampa City Council member Lynn Hurtak agreed, saying she used the registry as a landlord.

If you’re a good landlord, you have no problem, she said.

Miami-Dade County earlier this year created a Housing Advocacy office. Council member Guido Maniscalco said the city should study to see if such an office would work in Tampa, where average rents have increased by around one-third over the past year.

“We’re pricing Tampa people out of their own Tampa community,” Maniscalco said. “The people have spoken and we know what’s going on.”

Mayor Jane Castor opposes rent stabilization measures, saying the city wants to work with private developers to increase affordable housing within the city. Castor has said the city is more than halfway toward its goal of 10,000 units of affordable or workplace housing by 2027, which would be the end of her second term if she is reelected next year.

On Thursday, Nicole Travis, the city’s administrator of economic development and opportunity, said the city has helped 128 applicants with move-in costs and lease renewals through a program launched March 1. That program has spent $1.4 million already.

If council members approve Castor’s request for an additional $4 million in next year’s budget, there would be more than $5 million available to help people pay rent increases over the next 18 months.

But it would take $34 million just to meet the rental needs of the 2,500 people on the city’s waiting list, Travis said.

“It is important for everyone to understand there is not a single solution,” Travis said.

She said the administration would also bring land-use code changes to council members next month designed to free up more city land for affordable housing.

A long line of speakers organized by Florida Rising — a racial and economic justice group that has been organizing for tenant rights in Tampa — told council members about rent hikes of more than 50 percent. Many urged quicker action by city officials, saying steep rent increases were forcing them out of their longtime homes.

Landlord and apartment owner representatives said a lack of housing supply is causing problems, as is an influx of people moving to Tampa from other, more expensive states like New York, California and New Jersey.

Orlando Gudes called earlier this year for the city to study rent stabilization. He said he still favors that as a short-term solution. The council, however, took no action.

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City attorneys will report back on the Miami Housing Advocacy office and Gainesville landlord complaint registry at the June 16 meeting.

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