By Julie Salomone, ABC

A St. Pete faith-based organization held its annual meeting on Monday night. The group has advocated for more affordable housing in St. Pete.

Faith and Action For Strength Together (FAST) applauded Mayor Ken Welch’s efforts to increase affordable housing in the city but said more needs to be done.

Oscar Banks is the lead pastor of Palm Lake Christian Church and co-chair of FAST.

“As a pastor of a church, we need the people to come. We need the people to worship and to do the outreach that we do in the community and we’ve lost a lot of our younger families because they can’t afford to live here,” said Banks.

The organization is made up of members from more than 50 congregations and synagogues.

“We are not a political organization, we are a policy organization which is why we’re able to do the work that we do with so many different people because we’re not supporting any candidate, but we’re supporting people,” said Banks.

Mayor Welch has announced an expansion to the city’s existing 10-year Housing Opportunities for All Plan.

“We have allocated more than $40 million dollars this fiscal year to build new affordable housing units; we have strengthened our partnerships with county leaders, local developers, and non-profits; and we have implemented powerful protections for renters with our Tenants Bill of Rights,” said Mayor Welch in a press release from April.

The city has expanded its Rebate for Residential Rehab Program to be available city-wide in 2023. The city also said it launched a Replacement Housing Program, which assists senior citizens who have lived in their homes for a long period of time but don’t have the income to make necessary repairs.

The mayor’s office sent us the following statement:

“As you know, two of the Governing Principles for my administration are Inclusive Progress and Impactful Decision-making that improves the quality of life for all our residents and communities in the City of St. Petersburg. Housing Opportunities for All is one of five Pillars that focus our policies, priorities, and funding, and thus is foundational to everything that we do. Our goal is to provide thousands of units of affordable housing for individuals and families who make our city work.

Our overall goals align with FAST’s mission to protect, uplift, and educate families, especially in the critical area of affordable housing. Our teams have been intentional in the search and analysis for new funding sources for more affordable housing units, and I’m pleased to report that we have been successful with our goal.

Through innovation, partnership, and resource allocation, we have added an additional 1050 affordable housing units to the plan in place before I took office – our new 10-year plan is called the Housing Opportunities for All plan. The new plan increased the projected number of affordable and workforce units preserved, created or supported annually from 675 units to 780 units , an increase of 15.5% from the previous plan.

Moving forward, we continue to be diligent and driven in our data analysis and deliberate push for new, robust (multi-million dollar) funding sources, a critical requirement to further increase the number of affordable housing units in the City of St. Petersburg. Another important key to success revolves around our partnerships with developers and community stakeholders, including FAST, and we look forward to continuing to work together for the benefit of our families and communities in St. Pete,” -Mayor Kenneth T. Welch.

FAST plans to hold a press conference on the topic of affordable housing on Thursday, May 18, at 10:00 a.m. on the steps of St. Pete City Hall.

View the original story here.