TAMPA, Fla. — The City of Tampa is already pausing applications for its new rental assistance pilot program after a staggering response from tenants in need.
In a news release, a city spokesperson said more than 960 applications had already been received for the Rental and Move-in Assistance Program (RMAP), which launched on March 1. One million dollars from the city’s General Fund was originally allocated for the program.
Now, city council has approved an additional $4 million in funding for the program.
The program planned to give people move-in assistance and monthly financial literacy resources. It could help cover security deposits, first and last month's rent and subsidize monthly rent payments.
It was touted as an innovative way to help people in Tampa who were struggling to make payments as rent continues to soar with no end in sight. A single person making as much as $72,380 a year could potentially qualify due to the scope of the current rent crisis. The RMAP program was intended to cover gaps in support left by state and federal programs that come with certain rent limitations.
Nicole Travis is the administrator of Development and Economic Opportunity for the city, and she says a four-person team has been working around the clock to process the hundreds of applications they’ve received for the assistance program.
“People need help, and they can’t get bogged down in the process and applications. So this program is really low barrier. You just have to be income eligible…you have to have a signed lease, and be experiencing rent increase,” she said. “So this is a 12-month commitment with those residents, and the landlord, for us to provide financing for that gap. For where their rent is, to where it’s going to be.”
The city had set aside $1 million worth of general funds for the local effort, with the idea that more money would ultimately be needed.
Travis went before council on Thursday evening to request they vote to approve an additional $4 million to use for the fund after seeing the overwhelming demand from renters.
Council voted unanimously to approve that funding.
And it was. From there, the city secured an extra $4 million.
By Thursday, the goal was to get city council to approve even more funding because even the $5 million total wasn't enough.
"We appreciate the collaboration with Tampa City Council to secure the additional funding for the Rental and Move-in Assistance Program," Nicole Travis, administrator for Tampa’s Development & Economic Opportunity division, wrote in a statement. "This is a team effort and together, we will not stop looking for solutions to help make housing accessible and affordable for people in Tampa Bay."
Bratton Young is an organizer with the Tampa Tenants Union, a group that has been calling for city leaders to enact rent stabilization. He said this is a good step, but “we need real, meaningful reform in this city.”
While the city has already paused the acceptance of applications for the RMAP program, leaders say they will continue accepting names for residents who want help.
People living in Tampa can subscribe to this list to tell city leaders they need rental assistance, according to the release. The list goes to Tampa Mayor Jane Castor and the Development & Economic Opportunity team.
Travis says she is still encouraging people to sign up for the program’s waitlist, even though things are paused. She says that way, renters will be in line for additional funding as it comes available, and city staff will also be able to find out if they may be eligible for funding for other programs.
"We will not let up on this challenge and will continue to employ multiple approaches to address the current housing crisis." Mayor Jane Castor wrote in a statement. "There is no single solution. As part of Transforming Tampa’s Tomorrow, we will pursue innovative and sustainable solutions to provide affordable housing options and keep residents in their homes."
Current applications are in the process of being vetted to determine eligibility, the city said.