By Brittany Muller, WFLA
Local faith leaders are calling on St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch to add more affordable housing units for low-income families.
Faith and Action for Strength Together, or FAST, wants to see the mayor add 5,000 more affordable home units for families by the end of Welch’s term in 2026. Welch said the city has allocated more than $40 million this fiscal year to build new affordable housing units in St. Pete.
Dozens of people with FAST gathered outside city hall on Thursday morning. Pastor Oscar Banks believes his community is in crisis.
“Thousands of families here in St. Petersburg are on the brink of homelessness or are leaving our community altogether because of the cost of housing is too high,” Banks said.
Banks said the city isn’t doing enough right now. FAST cited data from the Shimberg Center at UF, which said 95% of renters in Pinellas County are paying more than half their income on rent, making 80% of the area median income or less.
Families at this income level, around $65,000 for a family of four, or $46,000 for a single person are being priced out of their homes.
Welch expanded the city’s existing 10-year housing opportunities for all plan last month. It includes an additional 1,050 affordable housing units, to make the total to 8,000 units to be built by the end of 2030, as well as financial assistance for residents and support for renters.
“Our overall goals align with FAST’s mission to protect, uplift, and educate families, especially in the critical area of affordable housing,” said Welch. “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.”
“The question with affordable housing is always: ‘affordable for whom?’” said Rev. Robert Ward, FAST Board Member.
FAST said long-time residents are being priced out, despite having full-time jobs. St. Pete native, Phyllis Young said she was born in St. Pete and raised her family in St. Pete. Now, her daughter moved back in with her because of the cost of housing, despite her having a full-time job.
“Families like mine, who have lived and worked in Saint Petersburg for decades, are being pushed out,” she said.
Young is afraid that if nothing is done now, thousands more will lose their homes.
“This means they must choose between putting food on their table, or paying for their medication or paying their rent,” said Pastor Banks. “That’s a choice that no one in our community, no one in our country should have to make.”
Welch said the city has been intentional in the search for new funding sources.
“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,” said Welch.
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