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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.

Tampa City Council approves its budget with as much as $46 million for housing assistance

Tampa budget hearing Laura Rodriguez
Gabriella Paul
/
WUSF Public Media
Council members deliberate final changes to the FY2023 budget before a vote on Tuesday, Sept. 20.

The money is nearly double the $26 million that was initially proposed to deal with the city's housing crisis.

Members of the Tampa City Council on Tuesday approved a revised budget for the 2023 fiscal year that potentially allocates around $46 million for housing assistance.

That's almost double the amount that was initially proposed by Mayor Jane Castor.

In August, the administration earmarked about $26 million for housing assistance — a combination of mostly federal dollars and $4 million from the general fund.

During the first budget hearing, on Sept. 6, council members asked administrators to scour the $1.9 billion budget for extra revenue. Renters and housing advocates had said that the initial amount was not enough compared to the overwhelming need for relief.

At the time, activist Connie Burton called the proposed amount to combat the housing emergency “an insult.” And Joseph Nohava, with the Tampa Bay Community Action Committee, called the original budget proposal an “anti-people’s budget” and implored council members to do more than what was proposed.

YOUR VOICES: Are you living paycheck to paycheck in the greater Tampa Bay region? Let us know

Laura Rodriguez Tampa City Hall budget hearing
Gabriella Paul
/
WUSF Public Media
Community action committee member Laura Rodriguez addressed city council at Tampa's second budget hearing. She called the administration's efforts "laughable," and called for a greater portion of general funds to be allocated toward curbing the affordable housing crisis.

Since then, officials identified around $20 million in additional funding for assistance.

Outside of regular grants and general funds, three pots of money were underlined by Development and Economic Opportunity administrator Nicole Travis to contribute to housing assistance next year: around $3.5 million in leftover rental assistance dollars from fiscal year 2022, $5.5 million in American Rescue Plan funds to be reallocated from the solid waste department and another potential $10 million from Community Redevelopment Agency funds.

During the second public hearing, Chief Financial Officer Dennis Rogero presented the revised budget before council members voted 6-1 vote to approve it. Councilman Bill Carlson voted against the measure.

“We think that’s a very, very large package right now,” Rogero said. “It’s only going to get larger.”

Money that’s earmarked for reallocation from solid waste and CRA funds won’t be immediately available and will require future council action.

Council member Lynn Hurtak – who originally said she wouldn’t support a budget with less than $55 million allocated for housing — voted in favor of the budget on Tuesday.

“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being creative to try to find more funding,” she said.

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.
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