Housing advocates say ‘state of emergency’ funds could fix current crisis

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla — Steve Baron and his wife Marcy say they’re leaning on their faith now more than ever.

“We believe that God is able,” said Steve. “Our savings is being depleted.”

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The couple says they’ve paid more than $12,000 in rent and storage at a local hotel over the last five months. They’ve been living there after having to leave their last apartment.

And so far, they say they haven’t found a new place to live that’s available and in their budget.

“Every time we put in an application, you know ‘nothing available’ and somebody else would get the opportunity to live there,” said Steve.

Robin Lockett works with the nonprofit Florida Rising and says many people, like the Barons, are being priced out of the area.

“Rent going up, two and three, eight times what it was before. So it’s just unbelievable,” she said.

Kella McCaskill is a realtor and the founder of the Center for Economic Development. And she says she’s seeing more of the same.

“I couldn’t ignore the phone calls because I relocated people here,” said McCaskill.

To help fix the issue Mccaskill, Lockett, and others in the community are pitching a few solutions to local leaders. First up, they’re asking for a state of emergency to be declared so state and federal funds can be released.

“With a natural disaster, it wasn’t the water, it wasn’t the wind. It was that multiple thousands of people will be displaced and this will be the same,” said McCaskill.

In the short term, they’re also calling for a cap on rent in the area. Long-term, they say we need more affordable housing. Without that, they’re concerned the area could face a lasting economic impact.

“Think about it if employers, corporate can’t find anywhere for their employees to live, they can’t be here either,” said McCaskill.

In the meantime, the Barons say they’re hoping that by sharing their story others in the same boat will feel less alone.

“We can’t give up. If you give up then the others that’s out there whose voices are not being heard won’t be helped,” said Marcy.

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