St. Pete residents sleep outside City Hall to demand rent control on November ballot

St. Petersburg residents want to see rent control on the November ballot, and they let the city council know just how important this issue is to the community by staging a sleep-in outside of City Hall.

Two dozen residents spent the night outside with the hopes that the city council will declare a housing state of emergency.

"We really wanted to show what folks are going through right now. We have folks experiencing homelessness because they’re having their rent increase by $500 plus," explained Nick Carey, an organizer with Faith in Florida. "This is what a lot of people are going through. They’re facing having to sleep outside, or sleep in their car, or move on the couch with a relative. We just wanted to highlight this is what a lot people are going through right now."

Photo: Protesters sleeping in grassy area outside St. Pete City Hall

Protesters host a sleep-in outside St. Pete City Hall in hopes city councilmembers add rent control to the November ballot.

Demonstrators showed up around 6 p.m. Wednesday and they didn’t plan to leaving until the city council meeting got underway at 9 a.m. Thursday. At the meeting Thursday, public comment was limited and did not address protestors when it came to the issue of rent control. 

This isn’t the first time St. Pete residents have voiced this request to the council. Earlier this year, the city council decided against declaring a housing emergency due to complications stemming from a 1977 state statute that exempts luxury rentals from rent control. They said they were concerned that lawsuits could follow.

Photo: Sign sitting outside St. Pete City Hall says, 'Be the Change we need. Having a home is only the first step.'

Sign sits outside St. Pete City Hall.

St. Pete leaders have taken action to try and combat the housing crisis by passing secondary dwellings and rental stipends to city workers, but residents say it’s not enough. 

Tampa City Council voted to put rent control on the ballot just last week. However, a proposal to declare a housing emergency and allow Tampa voters to decide whether to set a cap on rent increases failed Thursday. 

MORE: Tampa housing state of emergency will be on November ballots, city council decides

Tampa officials noted that rent has increased by over 30%. By declaring a housing state of emergency, rent control would be on the November ballot.

This comes as protestors are also scheduled to be outside of city hall, pressuring Mayor Jane Castor to allocate as much money as possible out of next year’s budget towards affordable housing and rental assistance.

READ: Study breaks down how many hours per week you need to work to afford rent in Florida

St. Pete City Council has until August 16 to put rent control on the ballot. Demonstrators are concerned they’re running out of time, which is why they said it’s important for them to make their voices heard at the Thursday morning meeting.