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Getting priced out? Tampa mayor says city closing in on affordable housing goal

Tampa's mayor said the city recently reached a milestone of 6,000 affordable housing units.

TAMPA, Fla — As housing prices continue to move higher, many would-be first-time homebuyers say it’s become frustrating and discouraging.

“I’ve been looking for a home for about two years,” Alexander Shepard said.

Shepard has been trying to put aside cash to buy his first home. But frustrated, as prices seem to be going up faster than his savings.

“Like, the more I make, the market is kind of outpacing it. You know?” he said. “So, options are just slim.”

Shepard isn’t alone. Tampa Bay is one of the hottest real estate markets in the country. In many cases, people sitting on the sidelines have watched their rent costs soar - hoping home prices would come down. But, they haven’t.

The city of Tampa’s push to get more developers interested in a public-private partnership is designed to make purchasing a home affordable not just for those who want to move here but people already here.

“Diversity is what defines the city of Tampa,” said Mayor Jane Castor. “And the last thing we can afford is for individuals to be pushed out of our city because of the rising rents and rising housing cost.”

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Castor says when she became mayor, her administration set a goal of adding 10,000 public housing units in the city by 2027. On Wednesday, she said they had recently reached a milestone of 6,000.

In exchange for selling at lower prices, developers are receiving public housing funds, land to build on, and in some cases, permission to build more units than zoning would have otherwise allowed.

“By the time we finish building it there is a list of people already making offers and demanding it,” said Darrick Fullwood, a builder who is participating in the program.

“It’s a win for the city for affordable units. And then also I got my increased density. It’s a long process, it’s not an easy process. But it was well worth it,” said developer Jonathan Stanton with LEMA Construction, the first to partner with Tampa.

It’s the kind of effort that gives would-be homebuyers, like Shepard, hope.

“Options are just slim,” he said. “But it’s still no reason to stop.”

Cities like Tampa and other local governments say they’re also trying to streamline the process which can admittedly be complicated and cumbersome.

By doing so, they hope to encourage more developers to at least consider building more affordable housing.

Just last month, the National Low Income Housing Coalition found that 79 percent of low-income renting households in Florida are severely cost-burdened. That means renters are spending more than half of their income to keep a roof over their heads.

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