Tampa housing advocates call for tenant legal representation and non-secular homeless shelter

The demands come in the wake of the city denying rent stabilization during the housing crisis.

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click to enlarge Protesters demand more protections for renters outside of Tampa City Hall in February. - Justin Garcia
Justin Garcia
Protesters demand more protections for renters outside of Tampa City Hall in February.
Tampa housing advocates are calling on Tampa City Council to provide legal representation for tenants, among other demands to help protect renters in Tampa.

The People's Council of Tampa (PCT), a coalition of local activist and political groups, has sent a letter to city council members and Mayor Jane Castor, asking the city to pass an ordinance that mirrors one passed in Miami-Dade County in March.

Miami-Dade now provides an "Office of  Tenant Advocate" which focuses on connecting tenants to legal resources that they need, and helps inform tenants of their rights. The county also requires that landlords disclose known issues with the property, including mold or rodent infestations. The ordinance prohibits discrimination towards tenants based on prior evictions, among other protections.
PCT wants to see a similar ordinance passed in Tampa, and the coalition plans on heading to city council at a May 26 workshop at 9 a.m. to demand it. The group also listed further demands, which include using American Rescue Plan Funds to establish a non-religious city-run homeless shelter and to declare a housing state of emergency in Tampa. Sociologists have found that religious-based homeless shelters often leave homeless people "hyper-institutionalized" and inadequately prepared for life outside the shelter. 

"On February 24, a large number of constituents of all demographics and backgrounds made public comments about the looming rent crisis and by extension, the housing crisis we are facing in Tampa," the groups wrote in their letter to the city. "More than one media outlet has commented on the seriousness of the crisis, but yet, substantial change has not yet been made."

In the letter, the People's Council urged all city officials that plan to run for future office to pledge, on the record, that they will not take any developer donations for their campaign.

The raging rental crisis has been the source of protest and debate as many tenants find steep rental price increases to be unbearable.
Last week, Tampa City Council passed an ordinance that requires landlords to give 60 days notice before increasing rents, which some housing advocates said was a step in the right direction.

But PCT wants more to be done to protect vulnerable renters.

Tampa City Council said in February that its hands are tied on rent control and rent stabilization due to state laws, per the advice of the city's legal team, despite protesters flooding city hall demanding it. Mayor Castor said such measures would "kill development" in the area. The demands also come in the midst of disturbing infrastructure problems at apartment complexes in Tampa.

"Our faith and trust in our City leadership is quickly waning as we deal with the housing crisis," People's Council wrote. "We believe the solutions we are providing will begin a robust pathway to guaranteed housing in Tampa, which will be the only long-term solution to the problems we are facing."

List of PCT demands from Miami-Dade ordinance:
  • The creation of the Office of the Tenant Advocate, which will be a funded municipal government agency. This tenant advocacy office would serve as a de facto “public defender” for tenants in the City and will address matters including but not necessarily limited to: upholding existing tenant protections, addressing illegal evictions, sexual harassment, discrimination, retaliation, and poor living conditions.
  • A requirement to disclose known issues in each property publicly by the landlord, including but not limited to structural integrity issues, mold, infestations, or other matters of concern.

  • Prohibit discrimination against tenants due to prior evictions.

  • Prohibit discrimination or retaliation against tenants who organize with their neighbors.

  • Allow tenants to conduct necessary repairs on their own and as such deduct the cost from their rental payment, if necessary.

  • Guarantee all tenant’s the right to legal representation.

Additional PCT demands:
  • Use the 40 million ARPA funds to create a city-ran, non-faith based homeless shelter/unconditional housing first program.
  • Expand the right-to-counsel program to include homeowner’s and those who use public housing.

  • Declare Tampa to be in a housing state of emergency.

  • Dismantle all iterations of the Crime-Free Housing Program, including the SAFE program.

  • Ensure that housing discrimination is prohibited for all marginalized communities.

  • Relocate and/or increase the vouchers for displaced Robles Park residents.

  • Require all landlords/property owners to be listed on a City run registry, which will include important information relevant to tenants and prospective tenants about the property.

  • Restart the FMAP Program with dedicated funding not less than $10 million.

About The Author

Justin Garcia

Justin Garcia has written for The Nation, Investigative Reporters & Editors Journal, the USA Today Network 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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