Tampa launches housing assistance hotline

Mayor Jane Castor says she also supports the City Council’s wish for a tenant advocacy office.
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor delivers her State of the City address at the Tampa Convention Center on Wednesday, May 11, 2022 in Tampa.
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor delivers her State of the City address at the Tampa Convention Center on Wednesday, May 11, 2022 in Tampa. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published June 21, 2022|Updated June 21, 2022

TAMPA — The city launched a housing information line Tuesday to help residents learn how to avoid eviction, deal with landlords and access housing and mortgage assistance.

Mayor Jane Castor’s announcement came less than a week after City Council members unanimously approved asking the mayor to create a $400,000, two-person tenant advocacy office to help residents affected by ballooning housing costs.

Related: Tampa City Council seeks to bolster tenant rights

Last week, the mayor was non-committal on the advocacy office. But Tuesday, her spokesperson, Lauren Rozyla, said that the mayor is warming to the idea.

“For now, yes, the mayor supports the tenant advocacy office. We wanted to get this off the ground immediately to help residents,” Rozyla wrote in a text.

Later, communications director Adam Smith texted to say the mayor “fully supports the tenant advocacy office.”

He didn’t immediately respond to a query about whether the mayor planned to include the council’s $400,000 request in her upcoming budget.

City Council members asked for the office to be included in the mayor’s upcoming budget, due to be presented to council members in August.

The housing hotline will be manned by city call center operators weekdays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Residents can call 813-307-5555 starting Tuesday, according to a city news release.

“There is no greater priority than working to prevent residents from being priced out of Tampa, and City Council members and I are tackling this crisis from multiple fronts — zoning changes, incentives for affordable housing development, direct assistance, and more.” Castor said in a statement. “This hotline is just one small step, but every step matters, and we need to do all we can to help those struggling to put a roof over their heads.”

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

Council member Guido Maniscalco, who led the effort to create a tenant advocacy office similar to the one that recently launched in Miami-Dade County, said he needs to learn more about the program. Maniscalco, though, said he was hopeful that city residents, dozens of whom have shown up at council meetings this year to complain about and increasingly unaffordable city, will see some relief.

As of Tuesday morning, all Maniscalco knew of the program was what he had read in the city news release. Castor plans to hold a lunchtime news conference to explain the program.

“Maybe they’re trying to offer the same service without spending the $400,000. If it’s along the same lines as what I proposed — as long as it gets done — I’m happy with it. At the end of the day, it’s a team effort,” Maniscalco said. “I’ll just wait and see what happens.”