St. Petersburg’s City Council voted to allocate an unprecedented 76% of its “American Rescue Plan Act” (ARPA) funding to housing efforts, making the city the Florida locality that has designated the highest percentage of ARPA funds to affordable housing for the lowest-income people. Prior to the vote, housing advocates had called on the council to consider imposing rent control and declaring a housing state of emergency to address the city’s housing crisis. The office of the City Attorney had opposed a rent-control measure on the grounds that it would result in liability risks. Local activists engaged in demonstrations, petitions, and meetings that resulted in the City Commission devoting $14 million more for affordable housing than was included in the original proposal. St. Petersburg will now receive $34 million in funding, receiving half in 2022 and the remainder in the summer of 2023, with a commitment to allocate all resources by December 31, 2024.
In the announcement of the distribution of ARPA funding, Mayor Ken Welch indicated that ARPA funds will be allocated for housing resources as follows:
- $20 million for multifamily affordable and workforce housing investments, focusing on housing for those with incomes of 60% of area median income (AMI) or below in order to comply with ARPA regulations. The resources from this investment will fund gap financing during the development process that would otherwise have been too expensive for the city to take on. The city plans to release a notice of funding availability for these funds in April.
- $6.5 million for Deuces Rising Workforce Townhome construction to fund the construction of 24 workforce townhomes for those with incomes of 120% of AMI or below. Maximum rents for these one-bedroom apartments will be capped at $831 per month. Income generated from the program will be reinvested in affordable housing insofar as the income will be returned to the Housing Capital Improvement Fund or other housing fund as determined by ARPA guidelines.
- $2.5 million for scattered-site family shelter for homeless families. In response to the sharp decrease in emergency family shelter during the COVID-19 pandemic, the St. Petersburg City Council awarded a two-year contract to St. Vincent DePaul to provide 25 homeless families with emergency family shelter through leased apartments.
- $1 million for permanent supportive housing services. While RFP responses are under evaluation, resources will be used to support the ongoing efforts of service providers and case workers as they work to ensure housing for the lowest-income renters.
- $3.5 million for future rental assistance or various needs.
- $500,000 for general administrative expenses.
While St. Petersburg advocates acknowledge the significance of these allocations, they are continuing to mobilize to ensure that city leaders follow through on their commitment to providing access to affordable housing for the lowest-income renters. Last week, approximately 70 advocates congregated at the People’s Council of St. Pete’s meeting to discuss strategies for elevating the issue of affordable housing. As the affordable housing crisis permeates their communities, advocates plan to continue organizing for change in pursuit of housing justice.