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More and more people are finding themselves living paycheck to paycheck in the greater Tampa Bay region. In some places, rent has doubled. The cost of everyday goods — like gas and groceries — keeps creeping up. All the while, wages lag behind and the affordable housing crisis looms. Amid cost-of-living increases, WUSF is focused on documenting how people are making ends meet.

St. Petersburg backtracks on a resolution for rent stabilization

Exterior of St. Pete City Hall
Gabriella Paul
/
WUSF Public Media
St. Petersburg City Hall on a Thursday morning before a regular council meeting.

The St. Petersburg City Council withdrew a resolution to put a rent stabilization proposal on the ballot in November. Council members also failed to pass a motion to reconsider the measure next year.

The St. Petersburg City Council backtracked Thursday on a decision to put rent stabilization before voters in November.

This mirrors a decision made by Tampa city officials last week and comes after a Tuesday decision by Orange County commissioners to greenlight the ballot measure for voters.

In Florida, price controls on rent can be imposed by a city or county government at one-year intervals if the local government finds a housing state of emergency "so grave as to constitute a serious menace" to the public, and if the measure is approved by voters.

Last week, council members agreed to draft a resolution declaring a housing emergency and proposing ballot language, despite warnings from the city's legal team that it was the wrong procedural move. City attorney Jackie Kovilaritch advised the council to pass an ordinance instead, citing that it's better protected under Florida's rent control statute.

Ahead of a vote on Thursday, Deborah Figgs-Sanders heeded the advice and withdrew the resolution for a rent stabilization measure.

"We're going to remove the opportunity for anything that we set forth to be struck down in any court," Figgs-Sanders said.

In its place, she moved to draft an ordinance to put rent stabilization to voters during a primary or special election in 2023.

After more than three hours of public testimony and deliberation by council members, the motion failed in a 3-5 vote.

Council members Figgs-Sanders, Richie Floyd and Lisa Wheeler-Bowman voted in favor, and Chair Gina Driscoll with members Brandi Gabbard, Copley Gerdes, Lisset Hanewicz and Ed Montanari voted against.

Rent control sleep-in protest St. Pete Gabriella Paul
Gabriella Paul
/
WUSF Public Media
Renters sleep in the grass lot outside of St. Pete City Hall ahead of a council meeting on Aug. 4. The "sleep-in" protest was organized by the St. Pete Tenants Union.

Dozens of disappointed renters crowded the room, many of whom had slept outside City Hall for the second week in a row, hoping to draw attention to the rising cost of housing.

One resident and landlord, Rev. Ben Atherton-Zeman, shared his convictions about the ongoing housing crisis and the proposed solution of rent stabilization.

"Even though it might hurt me as a landlord, I'll still vote for rent control because it's the right thing to do," he said.

Now, it appears, he won't get the chance to.

Gabriella Paul covers the stories of people living paycheck to paycheck in the greater Tampa Bay region for WUSF. She's also a Report for America corps member. Here’s how you can share your story with her.

I tell stories about living paycheck to paycheck for public radio at WUSF News. I’m also a corps member of Report For America, a national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms.