TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — As rents skyrocket in the Tampa Bay area, one local grandmother says federal rental assistance is not keeping up with the dramatic price hikes.

Delria Hayes qualifies for Section 8 federal housing help but says she still can’t find a place to live. She’s been homeless for a year and turned to 8 On Your Side for help.

“Every child should be able to say, ‘I’m going to get in my bed,'” said Delria Hayes.

Hayes is the guardian of her 8-year-old grandson. When she thinks about the past year, she breaks down.

“He’s had enough in life to happen to him,” said Hayes. “I just… I just want to put him back in a house.”

Hayes qualifies for federal housing aid, also known as Section 8. The vouchers, funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, are administered locally.

She says the problem is the voucher that’s supposed to be high enough to cover rent in the Tampa Bay area does not. If the rent is higher than what’s allowed, she explains, she can’t live there.

“No, there is no going above it,” she said.

Hayes has been approved for a three-bedroom in Pinellas County. HUD sets a limit for the max rent allowed for each applicant. 

The formula is based on income. For Hayes, the range is from $1,500 to $2,700 – depending on the zip code. If the unit costs more than that, she is out of luck.

“I have looked… from South St. Petersburg all the way to New Port Richey,” said Hayes. “It has been just one rejection after another.”

8 On Your Side called the Pinellas County Housing Authority, which administers the program. It turns out, Ms. Hayes is right.

According to the director of the voucher program in Pinellas County, vouchers have not increased enough to keep up with rent.

Right now, 180 families with vouchers are on the street, looking for a unit — the most in recent history. Rents are spiking beyond what voucher-holders can afford.

In Pinellas County, 7% of voucher-holders currently can’t find a place to live. Historically, we’re told that number was never higher than 2%.

Part of the problem is landlords, who can get more rent outside of the program, are leaving Section 8. Pinellas County is trying to recruit more landlords to participate in the program.

If you’re impacted by this crisis, email Investigator Mahsa Saeidi at MSaeidi@WFLA.com.

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