ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — As the public weighed in on the 2023 budget for the City of St. Petersburg, they made it clear one subject was on their minds: affordable housing.
Approximately five dozen people gathered in St. Petersburg City Hall on Monday evening to address City of St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch and other city leaders. The overwhelming majority used their three minutes at the podium to urge the city to prioritize affordable housing in its budget plans.
"There's a massive crisis right now in St. Pete and that's housing," said one participant.
"We need the housing expenditures to include social housing outside of the private market," suggested another participant.
The discussion on affordable housing included suggestions for social housing, as well as city-provided legal support for renters.
Welch told 10 Tampa Bay that addressing those concerns is also his top priority.
"People are hurting out there and we're doing everything we can as a local community and also partnering with the state and federal government as well as the private sector to try to fill that need," said Welch.
According to the city, the current total operating budget for the year sits at $748 million dollars. That's up to $37 million from this year.
The city plans to spend $34 million of funds from the American Rescue Plan to address the affordable housing shortage. Welch said it's possible more could be added.
"We are always going after more affordable housing opportunities," said Welch.
Other topics that were brought up on Monday night ranged from creating more handicap-accessible public spaces and crosswalks, and criticism about the funding going toward the St. Petersburg Police Department. In the closing remarks, Welch addressed the latter subject outright, saying the city would not be reducing funds for police.
Right now, the budget is in its early stages. In addition to addressing the affordable housing shortage, it also puts money towards infrastructure upgrades and making the community safer.
Spending for infrastructure improvements includes money for sidewalks, roads and some of the stuff you don't see like aging pipes and storm drains to help with rising sea level-related issues in the "Stormwater Master Plan."
Locals will have two more opportunities to weigh in on the 2023 fiscal year budget with public hearings scheduled on September 15 and September 29.
The new budget will go into effect in October.
To see the budget process or view the open house, click here.