Tampa pauses rent relief applications, councilmen say more public funds to pay off landlords is unsustainable

Since March 1, over 960 applicants have applied to for the relief, potentially exhausting the city funds.

click to enlarge Councilchair Orlando Gudes (center) discusses housing issues in Tampa next to Mayor Jane Castor (right) and Nicole B. Travis, Tampa's Administrator of Development and Economic Opportunity. - JUSTIN GARCIA
Justin Garcia
Councilchair Orlando Gudes (center) discusses housing issues in Tampa next to Mayor Jane Castor (right) and Nicole B. Travis, Tampa's Administrator of Development and Economic Opportunity.
Yesterday, city council was informed that the Rental and Move-In Assistance Program (RMAP) has been put on hold after an influx of applications over the past 10 days.

Since the program's inception on March 1, over 960 applicants have applied, potentially exhausting the $5 million in city funding put towards it. For now, the city has paused the program, which focuses on paying off private landlords who have increased rent and move-in prices on tenants who can't afford it.

The city confirmed to Creative Loafing Tampa Bay today that the program is on pause  until they process more applications and see where things stand. So far, the average amount expected to go to each applicant has been about $6,400, meaning the funds will assist around 780 households.

City councilmen told CL that while they were glad to find the money to help renters in the short term, paying for unbridled rent prices is not something they see the city continuing to do.
"I am happy that we found this money to help these families," councilman John Dingfelder told CL. "But even if the $5 million was adequate, which I don't think it is because it appears that we're getting more and more phone calls, it's not sustainable based upon our typical budgeting. So we have to find some other mechanisms and tools."

Councilman Bill Carlson agreed with Dingfelder, saying that more real-time ideas to address the problem have to be found. He has presented the idea of the city mandating that landlords have to give tenants a six month notice before increasing rents.

"The idea of the notice came from the community, and that's why we're asking for more of their ideas," Carlson said. "But ultimately what we need is more affordable housing, we need to get to 50,000 units."

Councilchair Orlando Gudes also said subsidizing landlords isn't sustainable, and stood staunchly behind the idea of exploring more ideas for rent stabilization, which the community has demanded at several council meetings as rents have skyrocketed by 24% over the past year.

"When we put millions toward rising rents, it's taking away from other essential services we need to keep our city running," Gudes told CL.

Gudes pointed out that in a city of 400,000 people, around half of whom rent, more needs to be done to address the unbridled housing prices.
While Gudes still supports rent stabilization, Mayor Jane Castor stood firmly against it this week. At a Wednesday press conference announcing the rent relief funds, Castor was asked by a reporter if rent stabilization or control would have been a better route than paying landlords who have increased rent.

"We have looked at rent stabilization and also capping rents, but what that does is, and I know it's difficult for individuals that are struggling right now, I fully understand that. But those aren't the answers," Castor said. "It's supply and demand. If we put the caps on rents, rent stabilization, that's going to kill development in our particular area. Developers are going to go to other locations throughout the United States that will welcome them and their projects."

When asked today for comment on this story, Tampa's Communication Director Adam shared similar sentiments as the councilmen.

"Obviously there is not unlimited money available to alleviate the housing crunch, but the city is looking every day for new avenues, opportunities, and ideas to help residents at risk of being priced out of Tampa," Smith wrote in an email. 

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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