TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Tampa has a housing problem. Costs are rising, people are moving and development is delayed due to supply chain and location concerns. In parts of the city, residents are seeking assistance to cover the costs that their wages are not rising to meet.
As an experimental solution to the issues of affordability, the City of Tampa launched a rental assistance program on March 1 with broad eligibility, as renters face rapidly increasing costs of living.
Based on the applications received, the $1 million set aside for the program was wiped out in days. A week after applications opened, the city had to pause the process due to the overwhelming number of submissions.
Almost 1,000 residents had applied for the Rental and Move-in Assistance Program in the first week. On Thursday, officials announced the funding had been used up and applications had been paused. As designed, the program operates differently than federal assistance, mainly due to a broader allowance for eligibility.
While federal programs require an applicant to make at most 80% of an area’s median income, the Tampa program required those seeking assistance make up to 140% instead, or anyone making up to $72,380 per year. As a result, more than 960 people applied for the program. The city said the RMAP would help pay for items like financial literacy resources, security deposits, first and last month’s rent or an ongoing monthly subsidy to pay rent.
According to officials, “Tampa Bay has seen the highest rent spike in the country, which is between 24% and 28% in the past year.” The data the city bases that claim on is from CoStar Group, a Tampa-based real estate company. CoStar reports the average renter in the Tampa metro area had their rent increase over $300 in the past year. City Council approved another $4 million in funding, but applications have not yet reopened.
To address the number of applicants, Tampa officials opened a waitlist for new applicants and on Thursday, the City Council voted to allocate the extra $4 million to the program unanimously.
Preliminary numbers sent by Tampa officials to WFLA said, as of the morning of March 14, there were already more than 1,700 applicants on the waitlist.
RMAP is not the first attempt by Tampa’s leaders to address what some call a housing crisis. Some city councilors explored the idea of rent control, but efforts to enact an ordinance to implement it did not pass. With the RMAP program already having hit its application cap, and new funding being allocated by City Council, Mayor Jane Castor committed the city to doing more to address the ongoing housing crisis.
“We will not let up on this challenge and will continue to employ multiple approaches to address the current housing crisis.” Castor said. “There is no single solution. As part of Transforming Tampa’s Tomorrow, we will pursue innovative and sustainable solutions to provide affordable housing options and keep residents in their homes.”
Residents are still applying to be on the waitlist, making the $4 million’s actual impact, once applications are approved, currently unknown. Information on how many people had already received assistance from the funding is not yet available.
Residents are able to subscribe to this list to let the City know that they are looking for rental assistance from the program. Approval for the funding is dependent on both residents and landlords submitting the required documents for their applications. The same day the RMAP program launched, Hillsborough County and the City of Tampa announced an additional $28 million from the federal government was available to help residents with rental and utility costs.
The funding announced by the city and county comes from the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, set up by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act and the American Rescue Plan Act, in two main rounds of funding, ERA1 and ERA2. Landlords and tenants in need of rental assistance can apply online.