TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Dozens of Tampa Bay families are reaching out to 8 On Your Side, saying they’re struggling to keep a roof over their heads as federal vouchers fail to keep up with spiking rent costs.

School starts in less than two weeks in Hillsborough County. Instead of getting ready and buying school supplies, five children are stuck in a one-room motel.

“It would be good to have something to live in,” one of the children, 10-year-old Alonzo, said. “It would make life easier to live in a place for a while and to sleep there and have fun.”

Alonzo, his cousin and his siblings, who range in age from 3 to 14, have been living in a Clearwater motel since Sunday.

Their lease expired. Now their disabled grandmother and guardian, Sandra Pittman, is working around-the-clock to find a rental home in Tampa.

“I tell them that we have to get into a bigger place and I’m looking. They see me looking, every day, they see me doing paperwork,” Pittman said. “I asked them – could they hold on for just a little bit longer until we get in a place.”

Pittman qualifies for Section 8 federal housing aid. The program is funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development but administered locally.

Last month, the Tampa Housing Authority gave Pittman a four-bedroom voucher to cover rent. She says she’s been looking for a home in multiple zip codes in Hillsborough County but is having a hard time finding a home she can afford with HUD’s voucher.

“Living is high, food is high, and they give you vouchers with less money, knowing that it’s going to be hard to find a place for that amount of money,” she said. “Unless you’re in a not in a safe place.”

Pittman and her family aren’t alone. 8 On Your Side found out that 180 voucher-holders in neighboring Pinellas County can’t afford a rental either.

Why? The local housing director tells 8 On Your Side low supply and rent spikes have created a housing crisis she’s never seen.

“It’s just hard,” Pittman said of her situation. “I’m thinking more about the kids and hoping we get a place soon so we won’t lose nothing, and I won’t lose them and they won’t lose me.”

8 On Your Side is looking into HUD’s process for determining fair market rent in each area. We’re told the process happens in October.

If you are experiencing issues with your HUD voucher, email Investigator Mahsa Saeidi at MSaeidi@WFLA.com

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