Landlords and City of Tampa staff talk council out of putting rent control on November ballot

There's still opportunity for rent control to make it on another ballot, and one council member thinks March is an option.

click to enlarge Eric Garduño, Director of Government Affairs for Bay Area Apartment Association argues against rent control. - City of Tampa
City of Tampa
Eric Garduño, Director of Government Affairs for Bay Area Apartment Association argues against rent control.
After city council voted to declare a housing state of emergency and put rent control up for voters decide, landlords and city staff came to city hall today to talk council out of it.

The effort worked, and council voted 4-2 against the first reading of an ordinance that could've put the rent control measure in front of voters on a November ballot. 

Councilmembers Lynn Hurtak and Orlando Gudes voted in favor of the ordinance. Councilmembers Charlie Miranda, Luis Viera, Guido Maniscalco and Council Chair Joe Citro voted no. Councilman Bill Carlson, who has been most vocal against rent control, was absent.

The proposed ordinance shot down by Tampa City Council today was similar to one in Miami-Dade, which has already declared a housing state of emergency and seeks to cap rent increases during the housing crisis.
Today's vote comes just one week after council voted 6-1 to implement a local housing emergency and craft an ordinance that would let voters decide on rent control.

Throughout the council meeting, both renters and landlords spoke out about the housing crisis, with renters pleading about being on the verge of homelessness while landlords argued that their bottom lines were being affected by economic issues. Still, renters outnumbered landlords in their plea for the city to control rents.

Last week, and even today at city hall, several council members believed that recent rent increases were egregious and that something must be done to cap rent gouging.

Landlords thought differently.

"What we've seen, according to the data, is that rent control actually hurts [housing] supply," Eric Garduño, Director of Government Affairs for Bay Area Apartment Association, argued during public comment. Garduño said he is not a Tampa resident.

Echoing an argument that landlords made, Nicole Travis, Administrator of Development and Economic Opportunity, gave a presentation claiming that rent control would negatively affect both renters and landlords.

"If it [rent control] does pass, you can guarantee that landlords are going to hike their rents," Travis told council. "They're going to shoot their rents up knowing that they're going to be stable for a 12 month period, and when that 12 month period is over, they're gonna shoot their rents up again in case that [housing] emergency continues, and the people that are most affected by that are mostly people of color and our poorest people in our community."

"The city needs to be asking, 'How can we fight greed?' not giving into it."

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But Robin Lockett of Florida Rising, who has pushed for rent control, and spends many of her days with tenants who are in desperate positions, told Creative Loafing Tampa Bay that that rent gouging is already happening, and that the city decided to allow that to continue.

In the Tampa-St. Petersburg area, rents have increased by more than 28% over the past year, from $1,561 in February 2021 to $1,999 last month, according to an analysis by Florida real estate academics.

"The landlords are raising the rents right now," Lockett told CL. "She [Travis] couldn't even get her talking points together. What's the difference if landlords are already gouging their rents? The city needs to be asking, 'How can we fight greed?' not giving into it."

In cities like Los Angeles and New York, among several other municipalities, rent control measures have existed for decades.

During the meeting, landlords said they wanted to find solutions to the housing crisis, but that rent control is not the solution. Councilman Gudes, who introduced the motion for the city to draft the ordinance, asked the landlords where they've been in the months since renters have been showing up to detail their desperation.

Councilwoman Hurtak supported the ordinance and also called for more funding to go to rent relief.

Councilman Viera and others had questioned the ordinance during the meeting, which was adjusted by the city's legal staff to remove the 5% rent increase cap that council had suggested. City legal staff also decided to insert a laundry list of exemptions for landlords under the ordinance.

After the vote, Viera told CL that he intended to suggest that the ordinance be examined, and that it be considered for a March ballot so there's more time to flesh out the details before passing it.

He still hopes there's an opportunity to get another version of the ordinance on a ballot in March. 

About The Author

Justin Garcia

Justin Garcia previously wrote for the USA Today Network, The Economic Hardship Reporting Project, Scalawag Magazine, and various other news outlets. When he's not writing, Justin likes to make music, read, play basketball and spend time with loved ones. 

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