The challenges of Tampa Bay’s growing population | Editorial
The influx of new residents makes this week’s roundup of the good — and not so good — happenings in Florida and Tampa Bay.
Aerial photo of homes and new construction in the Southfork Lakes subdivision in Riverview in 2020.
Aerial photo of homes and new construction in the Southfork Lakes subdivision in Riverview in 2020. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times (2020) ]
This article represents the opinion of the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board.
Published March 26, 2022

Voting with their feet. The Tampa Bay area continues to grow. Over 9,000 more people moved into the area than out in the first two months of the year, the Times Bernadette Berdychowski reported. Some fled colder climates. Others came for work, or for lower taxes, or to reunite with family. Whatever the reason, the area remains a popular place to call home. That’s a good sign for Tampa Bay. But with more people come challenges, especially for housing and transportation. All the new people need to be able to get around and places to live, at the same time that affordable housing is hard to find. The median single family home price in Pinellas County surpassed $400,000 and is approaching that amount in Hillsborough. All the more reason to double down on efforts to increase building densities in our urban cores and look for creative ways to encourage the construction of housing that new teachers, police officers and working- and middle-class families can afford. Some of that is already happening. The continued influx of new people make those efforts all the more urgent.

Financial dealings. Score one for Gov. Ron DeSantis for signing into law this week the Legislature’s financial literary bill. The new law requires incoming high school students to take a half-credit course on financial matters, including on different types of savings accounts, how to open accounts, the roles of credit and credit scores, different types of investments, and how to complete a loan application. The bill met little resistance as it passed through the Legislature. Teaching financial basics is the type of real-world training that enhances high school education.

On the other hand ... A brickbat to that same governor for grandstanding on the issue of transgender people participating in sports. DeSantis couldn’t help but pour fuel on an issue that demands nuance when he blasted the NCAA for allowing a transgender woman to compete (and win) the college 500-yard women’s freestyle swimming event at the national championships. In an official proclamation, DeSantis declared the second-place finisher — a native of Sarasota — the winner of the race. The issue of when to allow transgender girls and women to compete in high school and college sports needs more discussion. It is hardly a settled issue. But DeSantis’ silly antics demonstrate a lack of courage and expertise to add anything constructive to the conversation. Instead, he chose the low road.

A rich donation. A hat tip to billionaire philanthropist MacKenzie Scott for donating $7.5 million Habitat for Humanity of Hillsborough County and $11 million to Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas and West Pasco Counties. The donations were part of the $436 million Scott contributed to Habitat for Humanity International and 84 of its affiliates. Scott and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos divorced in 2019, with Scott’s shares in the company at the time worth $38 billion. The Habitat donation was part of Scott’s pledge to give away her vast fortune. The millions coming to the Tampa Bay area will build a lot of houses for people in need.

Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Editor of Editorials Graham Brink, Sherri Day, Sebastian Dortch, John Hill, Jim Verhulst and Chairman Paul Tash. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news.