St. Petersburg City Council to explore preventing further rent increases

The city of St. Petersburg will explore new options to put the brakes on skyrocketing rent prices after mayor-elect Ken Welch is inaugurated, along with new city council members, on January 6.

Rent went up by nearly 24% in the city last year – one of the highest increases of any Florida city. 

Prices are rising at such a swift pace, council members discussed during their last meeting of the year Thursday whether they could declare a housing state of emergency and set up the next steps for a potential solution.

The topic was not on the agenda for Thursday's meeting, however, council members made a show of good faith to groups that organized for weeks to bring the rising rent crisis to their attention. 

Council voted 6-1 to explore declaring a housing state of emergency. 

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The vote came after community members showed up to let the council know they were being priced out.

"My rent just went up $245 during the pandemic. I didn’t get a wage increase though," said Aaron Dietrich, who rents in St. Pete. "Rent was $700 before the pandemic. Guess how much the rent is now? Fourteen-hundred. That’s a doubling in rent! We need the state of emergency. We need rent control because these rent increases, they aren’t sustainable for us working people."

At least one council member wanted to vote on the state of emergency itself, but the city lawyer said such a vote would have to be publicized in advance.

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If the state of emergency is enacted, it would still take some time for any measures to be put into place. Voters would be given the final say on how to address the crisis.

Organizers who came to Thursday's meeting brought a draft ordinance to council members, which would ask voters to approve rent stabilization. The draft ordinance would slow – rather than stop – increases on residential properties for one year.

Incoming Mayor Ken Welch did not respond to FOX 13’s request for comment.