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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.

The high cost of housing tops list of St. Petersburg residents' concerns

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City of St. Petersburg
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The soaring cost of housing got the biggest response from three community discussions held recently in St. Petersburg. Mayor Ken Welch said the topics are his new administration's five top priorities.

Residents said the city has been approving "too many luxury developments without requirements such as affordable and workforce housing components.”

The soaring cost of housing got the biggest response from three community discussions held recently in St. Petersburg. Mayor Ken Welch said the topics are his new administration's five top priorities.

The Community Conversations were held in December. City residents were invited to share their thoughts on housing opportunities; equitable development and business opportunities; environment, infrastructure and resilience; education and youth opportunities; and neighborhood health and safety.

The topic that got the biggest response by far were housing and opportunities for education and youth. A big concern was residents saying the city has been approving "too many luxury developments without requirements such as affordable and workforce housing components.” They also said expensive high-rise housing downtown is not helping many people to afford an apartment.

Welch said the survey will remain open until April 17. Then, city officials plan to use the results to plan ways to address the top five areas of concern from residents.

Here's the message Welch sent out to the community:

I want to thank everyone who participated in the Community Conversations that occurred prior to my inauguration. I’m hopeful you and others will help us continue the dialogue. The topics addressed were the 5 priority areas of my administration – Housing Opportunities for All; Equitable Development and Business Opportunities; Environment, Infrastructure and Resiliency; Education and Youth Opportunities; and Neighborhood Health and Safety. More than 500 residents participated in the Community Conversations and your willingness to share your experiences, ideas, and bold solutions confirms my belief in the partnership between government and the citizens it serves.

We received the final report, which summarizes the input provided during the three Community Conversation sessions. A copy of the report is linked below on this webpage. We have organized the information from both the Community Conversations report and the Harvard Kennedy School report into a portfolio of potential action strategies that correspond with each of the five priority areas, with subcategories under each. This list of potential action strategies is also linked below for your review.

There are many great ideas that emerged, and we would like you to provide your thoughts on what you think are the priorities. Using the list of potential action strategies, we created a survey to make it easier to communicate your priorities. Please complete the survey to identify what you believe are the top strategies in each subcategory. The link to the survey is located below.

The survey will remain open for 30 days (ending April 17th, 2022). After the survey closes, we will use your input and other data to help shape our action plan and identify next steps in addressing these five priority areas. We hope you make your voice heard and give direct input on these issues as we move forward as Partners in Progress.

I am thankful for your partnership and your commitment to making St. Petersburg a place that benefits everyone. We Are St. Pete!

Sincerely,
Mayor Kenneth T. Welch

Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.