ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – Just this week, Aaron Dietrich said he’s started looking for a roof over his head.
“I’m homeless,” he said, “so it’s become very personal for me.”
Dietrich said things didn’t work out with a roommate.
“I know a lot of people in that situation and frankly a lot of people are living with people they shouldn’t be at this point,” he said.
Dietrich has lived in St. Petersburg for 22 years, but now he tells 8 On Your Side, that he can’t find a one-bedroom apartment in the city listed for less than $1,200 a month.
“I think a big part of the challenge is with the market the way it is frankly if I can’t prove that I make more than $3,000 a month, there’s no housing available in St. Pete,” Dietrich said.
Dietrich and dozens of community members who attended a meeting Wednesday night at the Allendale UMC Community Center say renters need more immediate relief amid a housing crisis.
“I’ve talked to people who have seen their rent go up by 800 or 1,000 dollars a month,” said Nick Carey, an organizing with Faith in Florida. “I don’t care how fiscally responsible you are no one is set to absorb that kind of cost.”
Organizers from the People Council, which is made up of several organizations, said in a release they believe meaningful ordinances are moving through City Council and they’ve met with Mayor Ken Welch.
“We’re confident that housing is his number one issue,” Carey said. “That’s what he’s told us.”
A city spokesperson sent 8 On Your Side a list of ways Mayor Welch has tried to increase the availability of affordable housing since his term began in January.
She pointed out the opening of Delmar 745 where half of the units are for people who were formerly unhoused.
Two projects are currently under construction, including The Shores on 31st Street South and 26th Avenue with 51 affordable units and Jordan Park with a new 60-unit affordable housing building and renovation on 206 existing affordable rental units.
According to a recent study from the Harvard Kennedy School, rent prices in St. Petersburg jumped 25 percent in 2021 for the third-highest increase of any city in the country.
“What we’re really asking for is for people involved in housing they need to have a consideration for the community and not just their bottom line,” Carey said.
For now, Dietrich said he plans to sleep on a friend’s couch. He added he takes some comfort knowing he’s not alone.
“I think its time for the city to take all necessary steps to acknowledge this is an emergency,” he said.
St. Petersburg City Council has been reluctant to declare a housing emergency or implement any rent controls.