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Tenants call for housing committee to move forward with rent control in St. Pete

The St. Pete Tenants Union is hoping the Housing, Land Use and Transportation committee will take the first steps to bring rent control to the area.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — As tenants around the Bay area call for rent control to combat skyrocketing housing prices on Thursday, renters in St. Pete will find out if their calls for help are being heard.

The St. Pete Tenants Union is hoping the Housing, Land Use and Transportation Committee will take the beginning steps to bring rent control to the area.

St. Pete recently upgraded a program that lets first-time homebuyers apply for down-payment assistance, now offering $60,000 instead of $40,000.

But USF Finance associate professor Dr. Lei Wedge says prices in the housing market are so high right now, that it probably won’t make much of a difference.

“It’s not going to help at all,” she said. “The true problem, the issue is, there are so many investors in the market, and they’re buying up the homes making it impossible for first-time homebuyers to buy.”

Wedge says with more costly homes, you’ll also get higher rent prices at apartments as well.

“Peoples' paychecks don’t grow, but home values keep going up,” she said.

So if you’re in an apartment, is it best to stay put, shop around, or move into a house?

“Don’t try to shop around,” Wedge said. “Your best option is to stay right where you’re at…you’re going to find that everywhere else is more expensive.”

But plenty of renters around the Bay Area who are trying to do just that—shop around—are getting rent increases they just can’t afford, or they’re getting lease non-renewal notices.

“When you live somewhere and you call it your home, and you’re forced out by someone buying your building and then your rent going up, or a mass eviction like in the case of Stanton or Holly Court, that’s devastating,” Karla Correa of the St. Pete Tenants Union said.

And on Thursday morning, St. Pete Tenants Union members like Correa will have their eyes on the city’s Housing, Land Use, and Transportation Committee in hopes that they’ll move forward with a resolution for rent control to give tenants some relief.

“This is the least that the city can be doing is moving forward with this rent control demand,” Correa said. “This can’t be negotiated. We can’t keep having to choose between our rent and our groceries.”

That HLUT meeting will be held Thursday at 8 a.m. at St. Pete City Hall.

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