St. Petersburg city leaders won’t declare housing emergency amid rising rent prices

St. Petersburg city leaders won't declare housing emergency amid rising rent prices

Previous coverage: Calls grow for rent price regulation in St. Pete

St. Petersburg city leaders have been taking heat when it comes to the price of rent and whether it can be capped or controlled. Now leaders are letting residents know where they stand.

St. Petersburg city officials met Thursday to determine whether they could move forward with rent control or rent stabilization, but, based on the advisement of legal analysts, the measure failed in a 3-1 vote.

The reasoning is because, according to experts, it’s extremely difficult to pass that sort of rent control measure in Florida. In fact, no city has been able to implement rent control since a 1977 statute was approved by the state legislature. 

The statute sets a high bar for cities to meet in order to pass rent control. First, they’d have to declare a housing emergency, which, Thursday, lawyers said would be difficult to prove short of a natural disaster or war. The measure also specifically says rent control wouldn’t apply to luxury apartments, which the 50-year-old statute defines as an average rent of $250. So essentially,  the entire rental market would not be exempt.

Attorneys warned St. Pete council members that the city would face tens of millions in lawsuits if they tried to pass rent control measures.  

PREVIOUS: St. Petersburg City Council to explore preventing further rent increases

“We are going to continue to drive people out of housing if we continue to go down this path,” said Brandi Gabbard, a St. Pete council member. “So, for me, I just cannot support this no matter how empathetic I am to these issues. We have other means of doing this work, and we need to stop battling Tallahassee, and we need to stop getting ourselves into potentially frivolous lawsuits.”

Instead, council members agreed to explore Using American Rescue dollars for rent relief.

Housing and rent prices across the Bay Area have skyrocketed over the last year and a half – up 24-30 percent, according to some analysts. Renters have been pleading with council members for months to enact rent control measures. Paychecks either haven’t budged or come close to keeping up.

The St. Pete Tenant’s Union previously called on city leaders to step up to manage the crisis.

“A lot of people are feeling the pinch right now and wondering if they can hold on,” said Aaron Dietrich, an organizer.

In December, St. Pete council members voted 6-1 to explore how it could legally declare a housing state of emergency and prevent or slow rent increases for one year, the maximum amount of time, according to state law. 

Joseph Hubbard

Joseph Hubbard is a seasoned journalist passionate about uncovering stories and reporting on events that shape our world. With a strong background in journalism, he has dedicated his career to providing accurate, unbiased, and insightful news coverage to the public.

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