Tampa officials advance measure that could help low-income renters

Tampa City Council took a step this week toward passing a Tenants Bill of Rights, which would give renters protections they didn't previously have.

Council members voted unanimously to advance the measure just two weeks after the same proposal failed.

"This is step one that we can do in terms of policy to make housing more accessible to people," said Councilman Luis Viera, who brought the issue back to the table.

During the council meeting Thursday, several members of the community urged the council to revisit the proposal.

The Tenants Bill of Rights would do two things: force landlords to inform tenants of their rights and provide a list of assistance resources; it would also prohibit landlords from denying prospective renters because they receive vouchers or other government assistance.

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The assistance typically given to low income families, elderly people and military members who must first meet a series of rigorous qualifications.

"I see this as a working person issue, as a human dignity issue, disproportionately. Obviously, it affects minority communities, but it affects everybody," Councilman Luis Viera told FOX 13. "This is one that we can do. So if we don't do it, then shame on us. And I'm glad we reversed course and did it because it's the right thing to do. I know the hearts of council members. They're good people on this issue and I'm glad that we made a wrong right."

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This comes as communities across Tampa Bay navigate a housing crisis that has caused rental prices to skyrocket.

In St. Petersburg, renters demonstrated outside city hall, urging city leaders to declare a housing state of emergency and allow voters to decide whether to pass a temporary one-year rent control plan.

Earlier this year, Hillsborough County Commissioners also passed a Tenants Bill of Rights that mirrors the one advanced by Tampa City Council.