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Economy / Business

Tampa Bay leaders explore solutions to the affordable housing crisis

Affordable housing advocates protest earlier this year
Roberto Roldan
/
WUSF Public Media
Affordable housing advocates protest earlier this year

There are many reasons why the supply of affordable homes is so low in the greater Tampa Bay area. A conference held in St. Petersburg Friday looked at ways to help ease that strain.

Soaring rents, lack of subsidized apartments, and problems getting homeowner's insurance are some of the major reasons why so many people are having trouble finding or staying in their homes.

During a conference that brought together housing advocates and elected officials, another reason stood out: Nimby or a not-in-my-backyard mentality.

Manatee County Commissioner George Kruse said people like teachers, law enforcement officers and others who are essential to a community should be allowed to live in subsidized housing near to where they work.

"Everyone needs safety, but no one wants the police and the first responders next to them, because those houses are not conducive because they are either too small or they're subsidized," he said of the opposition to affordable housing he's been seeing. "Everyone's job in this room is to make this community the best community it can be."

Pinellas County Commissioner Rene Flowers said it will take coordination between counties and cities to deal with our lack of affordable housing.

"So we're going to have to look at how we can work together. Because we're not going to be able to do this singularly," she said. "And if you think that, then, I'm sorry, we're not going to be as effective as many of us would like to be."

Flowers says that means tackling regional issues like a lack of public transportation and tapping into state and federal sources of funding, that can be used to either build subsidized housing or help lower-income people pay rent.

The conference was called REACH, for Resilience and Energy Assessment of Communities and Housing. It was sponsored by the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council, in partnership with The Florida Housing Coalition, Forward Pinellas and The Urban Land Institute Tampa Bay.

They unveiled new maps that show the risks to housing in the greater Tampa Bay region from natural disasters and sea level rise.

During the conference, participants also looked at ways to make affordable housing more resilient to the effects of climate change. They also announced the launching of Keep Safe Florida in Tampa Bay. This gives affordable housing owners and operators tools and technical assistance to see where their buildings can be made more resilient amid hurricanes, heat waves and climate change.

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