By Miguel Octavio, WTSP

A group of faith leaders is demanding the city of St. Petersburg do more when it comes to affordable housing.

FAST, which stands for Faith and Action for Strength Together, held a prayer vigil outside the Cathedral Church of St. Peter on Wednesday. They called for Mayor Ken Welch to vow for more affordable housing units at or below 80% of the area’s median income.

Among their hopes, members called for 5,000 of those new units by the end of 2026.

Those who attended included FAST members like 73-year-old Phyllis Young.

“It’s hurting, because I have family members who have left the area,” Young said. “For me, it’s personal.”

Young said she’s lived in St. Pete her whole life, even growing up at the Historic Gas Plant District before it was razed to make room for the stadium. However, the increase in rent prices has forced her to move, along with other members of her family.

“They’re not asking for handouts. They’re not asking for free meals. None of those things. They’re simply asking for an affordable place to live,” said Pastor Robert Ward of Mt. Moriah Missionary Baptist Church.

Members who attended said the city’s vision of what affordable housing is may not align with theirs.

“Affordable for whom?” said one speaker.

Members plan to meet once again at the end of the month with the hopes that Mayor Welch may attend. They said they hope to come to an agreement on affordable housing.

“We just want to sit down, have that conversation, and come to an agreement.,” Young said.

In response to FAST’s statements, a spokesperson for the city of St. Petersburg wrote the following:

“The City of St. Petersburg’s overall goals continue to align with FAST’s mission to protect, uplift, and educate families, especially in the critical area of affordable housing. At our 2024 State of the Economy, we shared a key update about the city’s comprehensive 10-year Housing Opportunities for All Plan: we have met 67% of our goal to create and preserve 3,200 multi-family homes by 2030. This percentage reflects the total number of units—2,146—that are in process, funded, permit-approved, under construction, preserved, or completed. Reaching or exceeding 100% of this goal can only occur through the strong public-private partnerships that the city enjoys with multiple community stakeholders, businesses, and organizations. We look forward to continuing our work together for the benefit of our families and communities in St. Pete.”

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