Tampa City Council votes down limit on rent increase

One week after voting in favor of an ordinance that would have given voters the ability to declare a housing emergency and set limits on the amount by which landlords could increase rent, Tampa City Councilors voted the ordinance down by a 4-2 vote.

"I don't want to blow smoke and everything fails and we’ve wasted time and given people the false assumption that we’re helping when ultimately nothing or very little is going to get done," stated Tampa City Councilman Guido Maniscalco, who voted against moving the measure forward after seconding the proposal last week.

City attorneys on Thursday presented a significantly watered-down version of the ordinance proposed by Councilman Orlando Gudes last week. Thursday's version removed a 5-percent limit on rent increases and included a litany of exemptions for landlords. The newly drafted ordinance excluded nearly all types of apartments, single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums, and mobile.

Though Gudes asked for the inclusion of the 5-percent limit and removal of exemptions, council members ultimately decided to turn down any version of the ordinance after the city's economic development committee delivered a lengthy presentation warning against rent stabilization measures.

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"Even if rent stabilization were to pass it will be litigated and it would likely not be November 8 when it would go into effect. In the meantime, the rental rates between now and November would continue to significantly increase. As we know, people who are most likely to be negatively affected by that increase are people of color and the poorest people in our community," said Tampa Development and Economic Opportunity administrator Nicole Travis. "I am urging you to be cautious about passing any rent stabilization from an economic development perspective."

Tampa City Council

Travis warned a rent limitation would likely hurt renters in the end and create a larger housing crisis by freezing development and embroiling the city in lawsuits, which city attorneys echoed.

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"No jurisdiction has done this since 1977 when the ordinance was enacted. There are many unclear provisions of this ordinance including the definition of a luxury apartment, including the definition of a housing emergency, and so the likelihood of us being challenged is extremely high," said Assistant City Attorney Rebecca Johns.

After hearing their arguments against the ordinance, four council members including Joe Citro, Maniscalco, Charlie Miranda and Luis Viera, who'd voted in favor of drafting an ordinance last week, voted against the measure on Thursday.

For rent sign

"Excuses," said councilman Gudes. "The voters should decide but we didn’t let them decide, we didn’t give them the opportunity. I don’t see this stopping anytime soon so I’m just hopeful that we can find some solutions for these residents that are facing homelessness."

Travis, however, insists council members have passed several effective policies aimed at combating the housing crisis and recommended they stay the course with initiatives that offer rental assistance and plans to continue to build and develop affordable housing.

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"We are working with Bay Area legal so that if anyone is facing eviction they can help with those services. We have a hotline that people can call to receive rental assistance. Those things are happening right now to provide immediate relief," said Travis. 

Now leasing sign in front of apartments

This year's city budget includes $5.5 million in general fund money and $20M overall for housing-related services. According to Travis, the city has pledged more than $69 million in efforts to help renters stay in their homes and to build more affordable housing.  

"I feel that direct assistance as we have done and are expanding on, that's going to be our best option moving forward to get people relief as quickly as possible," said Maniscalco.  

LINK: Click here for more information about city of Tampa rental assistance.