Instead, the millions in city funds will be used to subsidize those private landlords who have increased their prices on renters.
Over the past year, rental prices in the Tampa Bay area grew by a record 24%, and the Rental and Move-in Assistance Program (RMAP), launched on March 1, offers temporary relief for tenants who've witnessed the cost of housing skyrocket.
A single-person household making up to $72,380 per year, or 140% of the area median income (AMI), can apply for help. The tenant needs to apply for the program and the landlord needs to agree to it. What the tenant cannot afford goes to their landlord from the city funds.
So far, 560 applications have been received by the city.
The mayor's press conference came after over 100 of Tampa renters in crisis flooded city hall on Feb. 24 during a rent stabilization workshop, demanding that the city enact some form of rent control to set a cap on prices.
Castor administration lawyers and city council shot the idea down, mainly arguing that their hands were tied by state law, which makes the rent control process burdensome and costly. Rent control advocates argued that is not necessarily true.
But today, when asked by a reporter if rent control would have been more effective than giving millions in city money to private landlords, who are partially responsible for the area's current housing crisis, Castor said that her reason for not wanting rent stabilization or rent control is because of developers.
"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."
If we put the caps on rents, rent stabilization, that's going to kill development in our particular area.
Castor went on to say that the city has to use other methods to ensure that the city is providing affordable housing as quickly as they can.
"We're doing that through multi-family units," Castor said. "We're doing that through rehabilitation programs. We are looking at every single avenue that we can to provide that housing now for our community."
A walk on item was added to Thursday's city council meeting to request an additional $4 million on top of the original $1 million that the city had allocated from its general fund for the relief. Details on the extra $4 million are supposed to be discussed at Thursday's council meeting. Councilchair Orlando Gudes said that council has been getting "tons of calls" for help.
"Capitalism is great, everybody wants to make money, but at what cost to everyday people who make the city run?" Gudes asked. "If my garbage man can't afford to pay rent…how do we operate?"
After the press conference Gudes told CL that he didn't agree with Castor's outlook on rent stabilization.
"I don't think it would drive away developers, I talk to them regularly," Gudes said. "What we need is a plan that will work for everyone."
During the press conference, the city was asked about other measures besides rent control that it might be exploring to rein in landlords from raising prices, in order to address the root of the problem.
"[RMAP] is just one tool in the toolbox and where we are now is, families need help now," Kayon Henderson, Manager of Housing and Community Development, said. "While we're looking at other alternatives, we still have to meet what their needs are currently."
But at the recent recent rent stabilization workshop, families told council what they need is rent control.
Connie Burton, longtime Tampa housing and labor activist, speaks regularly at council meetings about the need for fair housing prices. She told CL that while today's announcement may help renters in the short term, it's also encouraging landlords to keep increasing rents, while the city pays for it.
"It may look like they're putting a band-aid on the situation, but what the city and the landlords are really doing is scratching each other's backs," Burton said. "Meanwhile, people are still being displaced by this crisis that the city refuses to address in an effective way."
Burton said that the housing crisis has been coming for years, and that the city waited too long to act on the problem.
"Rent control should have happened a long time ago to avoid the crisis we're in now. Without some form of control over the rental prices, the problem isn't going anywhere," she said.
UPDATED: Updated on 03/10/22 with additional input from Orlando Gudes in response to Castor's claim that rent stabilization would drive away development.