Tampa Bay rent increases causing sticker shock

Rental rates in Tampa Bay have increased more than five percent in the last year, according to a recent study, and community advocates are pushing leaders in Hillsborough County to step in and help low income residents who can no longer afford to live in their homes.

"Any time low income people have to pay more than half of their income for rent, that's not good," said Reverend Joe Johnson of Hillsborough HOPE.

Johnson and members of the Hillsborough Organization for Progress and Equality (HOPE) spoke to county commissioners during the Board of County Commissioners meeting Wednesday.

Johnson said they presented a petition with more than 600 signatures, asking commissioners to work with HOPE to form an Affordable Housing Trust Fund.

"We've got thousands of residents here that are on the verge of being homeless. During this recession, many of them lost their homes," said Johnson.

Average monthly rent: $995

Recovering is an uphill battle with the cost of housing constantly rising. Tampa Bay is ranked 13th nationwide when it comes to the largest average increase in apartment prices, according to a study by the Marcus & Millichap real estate service firm. The average monthly rent is $995 in Tampa Bay.

"Prices have gone up tremendously in the past six months or so. We've seen studio apartments starting around $1,300 a month and three-bedroom apartments as high as $3,000 a month," said Jessica Scrivani, a licensed real estate agent with Selling Tampa Bay.

Selling Tampa Bay realtors often work with renters in Tampa free of charge to help them find a rental property in their budget.

"Tell us what you're looking for, what your price range is, and what your needs are. We'll send you an email with different properties to take a look at, and then we can tour the properties together and make your life much easier," said Scrivani.

Johnson said HOPE is not asking county commissioners for funding out of their annual budget. He's hoping commissioners will use their connections to get his grassroots organization in touch with funding sources already available, but unknown to the average citizen.

"They can come and work with us on this, and that's what we're striving to do…to get them to back us up and not look at us as the enemy. We're not the enemy," said Johnson.

Johnson said he is waiting to get a response back from commissioners concerning the petition.

For more information on HOPE, visit, http://HillsboroughHOPE.org

For assistance finding rental properties, visit www.sellingtb.com or email Jessica@sellingtb.com