By Brittany Muller, WFLA

Rent had been increased by hundreds of dollars for St. Pete resident Phillis Young.

“I just could not absolutely afford that, so my daughter and I found another place to move to,” said Young.

Luckily, Young found another apartment in St. Pete, but it wasn’t available right away, so she and her daughter stayed in a hotel for a few weeks.

“I realize there are a lot of people who live at hotels because they cannot find an affordable place to live. So they end up going from hotel to hotel,” said Young.

Young is a member of the non-profit Faith and Action for Strength Together or FAST. The group is calling on Mayor Ken Welch to create 5,000 affordable housing units for families making 80 percent of the area’s median income by 2027.

“FAST is really aware of the work we’ve done, and my message to them is help us to get to innovative solutions,” said Mayor Ken Welch. “The faith-based community has a lot of property, a lot of land, help us to have innovative partnerships to create new affordable housing.”

Mayor Welch hosted the final City Hall On Tour series on Tuesday night at Childs Park Recreation Center on 13th Ave. S. The mayor and other members of his leadership team hosted open house-style tour stops at different city recreation facilities to listen to and learn from residents about their needs.

St. Petersburg is among the top three Florida cities with the fastest declines in population, according to data from the money management site Finance Buzz. Residents have repeatedly cited the cost of housing as their top concern.

The mayor said the Fairfield Apartments, just north of Gibbs High School, have been converted from commercial property to affordable housing under a new state law creating 260 affordable units.

Another 1,200 affordable and workplace units have been proposed under the Tampa Bay Rays stadium deal.

“I understand they want to keep the Rays here. I understand. I support the Rays. However, living here is really a whole other question,” said Young. “It’s just very difficult right now.”

Mayor Welch says they’re not mutually exclusive.

“In fact, it really helps us get us to where we need to be on affordable housing,” said Welch.

The mayor said the city is being innovative and using partnerships to deal with this crisis.

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