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Hillsborough County leaders talk affordable housing plan using COVID-19 relief money

Tampa Bay Water also briefed commissioners on what's being done to ensure enough water supply from our growing population.

TAMPA, Fla. — Hillsborough County has millions of dollars to use for affordable housing.

It's dollars left over from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and money from the federal government provided for state and local governments in response to COVID-19's impact. 

But during its meeting Wednesday, commissioners didn't agree on how it should be used. A motion to vote on the item got tabled.

Chair Kimberly Overman recommended the board approve $24 million of ARP funds and the remaining funds presented as ARPA reserves toward affordable housing development. That would've provided an additional $9.9 million.

"Many people want to be here. We live in a wonderful place. There are great jobs, great opportunities. However, we need great places to live across all the income streams," Overman said. 

While commissioners agreed affordable housing is an important need, some expressed concern over using the rest of the funds all for affordable housing in the meantime.

That's because of inflation, supply chain or other problems that may need immediate attention, they said. 

"At the moment, we really do just need a little bit of money reserved," Commissioner Harry Cohen said. "This amount of money could mean the difference between the county acting very quickly and not."

The $24 million for affordable housing and remaining funds were identified during its previous meeting on May 4. 

At the time, the board voted to approve $20 million in ARPA funds to help fix cracked and lifted sidewalks in the area, with many posing safety hazards in neighborhoods. 

Neighbors like Colonel Cory Damon voiced concerns about the impact of affordable housing for service members and their families at MacDill Air Force Base.

"These families going further and further away to stay within a family budget has the potential to impact our forces to train, and to respond to their missions because of the increased travel and family support challenges," the vice commander of the 6th Air Refueling Wing said.

Realtor.com found the year-over-year rent jumped 31.1 percent, third in the nation overall. The average rent in Tampa now stands at $2,114, according to the agenda.

Commissioners will reconvene during its regular board meeting on June 2 and are expected to vote on the item. 

Meantime, the board was also briefed by Tampa Bay Water on its long-term master water plan.

Tampa Bay Water has identified three new water supply projects for additional study. The region is forecasted to need an extra 10 million gallons of drinking water per day by 2028 and another 10 million in 2038, according to the plan.

In the meantime, its general manager said valves and pumping stations are being implemented to help supply millions more gallons of water.

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