TAMPA, Fla. - Census data shows Tampa has among the highest income and homeownership disparities for African Americans, and a Tampa city councilman said that needs to change.
Councilman Bill Carlson, who represents South Tampa in District 4, said the city’s inequity is holding Tampa back, and the city’s poverty rate plays a big part.
Tampa has seen loads of construction and investment from companies in recent years, but Carlson said the city needs to pay attention to neglected communities in order for Tampa to fully flourish.
“We have the second-highest poverty rate in the state. We're not only behind in major cities, but we're behind St. Pete,” said Carlson.
Plan Hillsborough, the planning commission for Tampa and Hillsborough County, did a report on the concentration of poverty in the county, and the concentrated areas fall within the city’s black communities.
“The main community center in east Tampa is called Fair Oaks Community Center, and in 50, 60 years it's never once been renovated. It hasn't even been painted,” said Carlson. “Residents come to us and say there are rats crawling in it. Well, how do we expect kids to become entrepreneurs if they don't have access to computer labs? And not only do they not have that, but they also have rats running around. It's not safe.”
The planning commission’s project manager and researcher Terry Eagan put together the concentration of poverty report.
“There’s a real disdain in how we look at people in poverty. They are treated almost as second class citizens,” said Eagan about how communities view the poor.
The planning commission’s report tracked how people moved from downtown to east Tampa, the University area, and Sulphur Springs over the decades.
“In east Tampa, you’re seeing a lot of demolitions occur, but you’re not seeing the replacement of housing stock. So that makes you think, well if you’re losing housing stock in one part of the city and it’s not being replaced as rapidly as in other parts of the city, where are those people moving to?” said Eagan about how the poverty concentration has shifted locations.
City leaders say poverty levels are only a part of the problem. Councilman Carlson compiled Census Bureau data that also found high levels of economic disparities in homeownership and income among African Americans.
“We have to help people in communities who don't earn as much to find jobs, and the best way to find high paying jobs is to help people start their own businesses,” said Carlson about investing in vulnerable communities.
Fixing the inequity to give all communities a fair chance is what Carlson says will keep Tampa thriving.
“As companies are looking to invest in our area, they look at the real numbers we have, not the numbers that we want people to look at,” Carlson said.
Councilman Carlson said he wants to form an economic advisory committee to talk about how the city can redirect money to neglected communities and help address some of the systemic disparities and grow the economy.