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Politics / Issues

Lack Of Affordable Housing Spices Up Tampa Mayoral Debate

The seven candidates vying to become the next mayor of Tampa squared off Tuesday morning, discussing the lack of mass transit, tapping into the "innovation economy," and spreading development wealth from downtown Tampa to nearby neighborhoods. But the city's growing unaffordability was discussed as well.

Former Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor said she went to Austin, Texas recently, and was amazed at the lack of diversity.

"Our diversity defines Tampa as a great city," she said at the forum hosted by  the Tampa Bay Business Journal. "And we cannot have people pushed out of our community because they cannot afford rents, they can't afford their mortgages."

Related: Read WUSF's series on the affordable housing crunch in the Tampa Bay area.

City Councilman Harry Cohen wants to see a city-owned land bank that would be used for affordable housing and "tiny homes." That drew a rebuke from former Hillsborough County Commissioner Ed Turnanchik, who said it would be demeaning to make people live in 300-square-foot home.

"What I don't like is the notion of having tiny houses that are stigmatizing," Turanchik said. "And I don't like the city practicing giving away lots to affordable home builders that don't build affordable homes."

Cohen said Turanchik was "not with the times."

"I don't think that you're seeing that there are new, more innovative ways of doing things today," he said. "We have to look at much more creative options to deal with these problems, than the same old, same old solutions that have been tried and failed for the past 30 years."

The other candidates vying to become the city's next mayor are City Councilman Mike Suarez, businessman and philanthropist David Straz, former Judge Dick Greco Jr., and businessman Topher Morrison. The election will be held March 5th, with a possible runoff on April 23rd.

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Credit Steve Newborn / WUSF Public Media
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WUSF Public Media
Tampa Mayoral candidates at the Five Labs debate, sponsored by the Tampa Bay Business Journal