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Neighbors call for affordable housing options at St. Petersburg City Council meeting

"People are losing their jobs, people can not sustain income, people are scared, and on top of that…we are in a pandemic."

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — People in St. Petersburg say they can’t afford to live there, and they’re asking the city council to do something about it.

St. Pete was allotted a little more than 45 million dollars from the American Rescue Plan, and neighbors are pushing city leaders to put that money towards creating housing options that have a better price range.

“All this money’s coming in, but we still don’t have the programming,” said Jalessa Blackshear who lives in St. Pete.

St Pete has received 22 of the $45 million the city was allocated from the American Rescue Plan. At recent workshops, city leaders asked neighbors to rank the areas that were most important to them to help decide where funding should go. Housing affordability was ranked the top priority.

Based on the rankings, St. Pete leaders suggested this usage of funds from the American Rescue Plan: about 15 million going to affordable housing, about 12 million health and social equity, about 9 million for infrastructure, about 6 million for economic recovery, and about 3 million for public safety.

“I did the calculations today, and with the rental increases I am seeing in my apartment complex, I have to take out the maximum loan,” said Alex O’Connell, a student at University of South Florida-St. Petersburg.  

After hearing from neighbors, councilmembers said they’re open to giving housing even more cash.

“I am very much in favor of putting even more money into the housing fund,” Councilwoman Gina Driscoll said at the meeting on August 19.  

At the end of March, St Pete launched a Rental Assistance Program for people who:

  • Lost a job or significant income due to the pandemic
  • Are behind on rent or are at risk of missing rent payment
  • People who have a household income at or below 80 percent of the area median income

For someone living alone, that would be if you made about $41,000 a year. Neighbors say, there are people who make much less than that, who need more focused assistance. And they say these actions need to happen quickly.

“People are being forced out of their homes right now,” O’Connell said. "People are losing their jobs, people can not sustain income, people are scared, and on top of that…we are in a pandemic."

City leaders say the council will have a solid plan presented to them in 6 to 8 weeks regarding how to spend the first half of that $45 million.