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With Elections Approaching, Activists Want Affordable Housing On The Agenda

May 6, 2018

Housing advocates are calling on local politicians to make more funding for affordable housing a priority in the 2018 elections.

A handful of activists protested outside the vacant North Boulevard Homes, a public housing development in West Tampa where more than 3,000 people used to live. It is expected to be rebuilt, but as a mix of affordable and market rent apartments and condos.

Dayna Lazarus held a sign that said "Y.I.M.B.Y" or "Yes in My Back Yard." She's an activist and master's student in urban planning. She wants Tampa residents to profit more from the city's development boom.

"Developers want to build here right now," she said. "We need to strike while the iron is hot and set these regulations, so that we don't end up pushing out everyone in the city who can't afford our skyrocketing rent."

Lazarus said she'd like to see a local affordable housing trust fund and new regulations requiring developers to build more affordable housing.

Over the last decade, the number of low-income residents struggling to afford rent in the Tampa Bay area has increased by more than 35 percent, according to University of Florida researchers. The average rent in Tampa also increased this year by 5.2 percent, nearly double the national average.

Other speakers at the rally pointed out that veterans, racial minorities and those transitioning out of prison have a particularly difficult time finding affordable and safe housing.

Jerry Green, Florida Outreach Director for the advocacy group VoteVets.org, said veterans are also more likely to end up homeless in part due to their increased risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder.

"Many of those who have guarded the security and freedoms that we hold sacred are not sleeping well, they're not sleeping safe today," he said.

The organization Our Homes, Our Voices organized similar rallies in Miami and West Palm Beach.