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Problems in Paradise?

Working families in St. Petersburg are struggling to stay in their homes amid an ongoing housing crisis. The average cost of a studio apartment in St. Petersburg is $2,110 per month as of August 2022 — a staggering 55% annual increase in costs that climbs to $3,256 for a three-bedroom unit (a 115% year-over-year increase).

 

St. Pete locals did not get 55% raises last year that would allow them to keep up with these costs. As a result, people are being forced out. For example, between 2010 and 2020, St Petersburg lost about seven percent of its Black population according to the decennial censuses.

The Affordable St Pete Coalition believes the City must do more to make sure all residents have access to housing.

 

What’s the city doing now?

 

St Pete currently has about 4,130 units of affordable housing available. But, that’s only enough affordable housing to help out one in 10 of the City’s 42,000 renting households. When we’ve knocked on doors in these city-subsidized affordable units, we often find that residents are seeing multiple rent increases a year and paying more than 50% of their income in rent.

There’s no reason to believe that the city’s current strategy of subsidizing developers to build affordable units is going to stop the displacement of long-time residents. It’s too little, too late, and does nothing to stabilize the city’s volatile and speculative housing market.

What’s the solution?

 

Around the United States, local governments are experiencing problems similar to St Pete’s and looking to a different solution: mixed-income public housing, often called “social housing.” This solves the problems described above in the following ways:

 

  • Social housing is owned by the city. The removes any incentive for speculation, home flipping, and unnecessary rent increases.

 

  • Social housing creates more housing per dollar. Social housing cuts out the parts of the cost that go to profit (since the city doesn’t need to profit), land taxes (since the city doesn’t pay taxes on its own land), and expensive construction loans (since the city can create low-interest loans by issuing bonds)

 

  • Social housing works for high-volume construction. Once a social housing program is up and running, governments can use it to create thousands of units built to their own standards of sustainability and historic character. Since the developer is always city-owned, many aspects of the process are streamlined.  

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