How renting in Tampa Bay went from cheap to expensive, in 11 charts

As long as they hawked swamps to northerners, Florida sold itself on the promise of a cheap life.

“For the wealthy planter, Florida is eminently inviting,” said a delegate from a pre-state Florida wrote to a Washington, D.C. newspaper in the early 1840s as the government tried to entice new residents with free land. “But for the poor and the moderate of circumstance, it is, beyond all comparison, the paradise of the earth.”

Since then, Florida’s reputation as the Eden of all men has defined it: Come for Mickey. Stay for endless sunsets.

Florida symbolized the dream of an affordable America, a place where one could retire comfortably with a teacher’s pension. Or if you were still working, you might not get rich in one of the many service jobs, but you could still afford that cute little balcony apartment.

Not anymore.

Across America, the price of everything has skyrocketed over the past few years. And in Florida, rent, the biggest bill for most, has gone up even more.

He was already moving in that direction around Tampa Bay for the past decade. Over the past two years, it has skyrocketed, consuming an ever-increasing share of the spending of people on fixed incomes and/or in low-wage jobs.

The numbers tell the story.

What happened to the rent?

More than 20 years ago, the promise of an affordable paradise grabbed LaFaye Bodden and lured her. A paralegal in New York, she had come to Temple Terrace to visit a friend.

“I was sick from the cold,” she said. “I came here a week and said, this is it.”

She returned to New York and spent the week on the phone, interviewing for jobs. She knew she would take a pay cut moving, but soon found herself in a 3-bedroom apartment that she could easily afford.

Bodden moved into his current apartment, in Temple Terrace, in 2010, paying around $850 for two beds and two bathrooms. Before the pandemic, it was around $950. Then $1,135 and $1,335. Recently, she was advised that if she wanted to stay, she would have to pay $1,600 per month, plus fees and the water bill.

His experience is not unusual.

It’s not that rental rates in Tampa Bay were completely flat before the recent spike. Based on statistics dating back to 2000 from real estate data tracking firm CoStar, there have been steady increases in rents in the area for most of the turn of this century. This included a bump coinciding with housing bubble inflation in the mid-2000s and a decline after the subsequent crash. Only in the past decade have average rents consistently exceeded $1,000.

But a sign of Tampa Bay’s changing costs began around 2014, when rent increases began to outpace inflation.

Even then, Tampa Bay maintained its reputation for affordability. From 2000 to 2017, the average rent here was consistently between $125 and $150 cheaper than the national average. Even amid the housing crash, it was still about $100 cheaper to rent here than the national average.

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However, beginning around 2014, the gap between the average local rent and the national average rent began to close. And in the spring of 2021, the average asking rent in Tampa Bay exceeded the national average for the first time.

“Fair market”, higher wages

A longer view of how rents have changed over time — and how much that has changed over the past decade — is through fair market rent. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development sets this rate each year for units of varying sizes in metropolitan areas across the country. It’s usually set at a rate a bit cheaper than the median rent in the area.

Local housing authorities use these rates to determine how much they will contribute towards rent payments for Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher recipients.

Fair market rents fluctuate by zip code in the Tampa Bay area. But the Department of Housing and Urban Development also advertises fair rents at the metropolitan level, which we’ll use here to get a view of Tampa Bay as a whole.

It’s also worth noting that not everyone who qualifies for Section 8 aid gets it: Last year, the Tampa Housing Authority opened applications for a lottery that would allow 3,000 households to apply. on the waiting list for the vouchers. In the week it accepted applications, 18,000 people applied.

You may have heard that a household shouldn’t spend more than 30% of their pre-tax income on rent, a rule of thumb derived from the Section 8 standards. Whether this suggestion applies to you depends on many factors. – where you live, what you do, how much debt you have. Yet the Department of Housing and Urban Development has long used 30% as a threshold to determine if a household is burdened with rent or if they pay more rent than they can afford and continue to pay for d other necessities, such as food and transportation.

Here’s the hourly wage a bachelor in Tampa Bay would have to earn, in a 40-hour week, to spend 30% of his income on a unit at the fair market rate.

A year ago, keeping Tampa livable for renters was at the top of Garrett Camfferman’s mind. He helped start the Tampa Tenants Union in an effort to organize neighbors to push for renovations and better communication with their landlords.

Camfferman, 22, worked a series of low-wage jobs: one at a local smoothie shop, another at Amazon’s fulfillment center in Ruskin, 45 minutes from his apartment, and finally a job as a replacement teaching at $12 per hour. When his lease ended in early 2022, he said, he and his roommate faced a rent hike they couldn’t afford. Camfferman returned to live with his parents in Pinellas County.

“I would have loved to continue living in Tampa, because I love the city and I loved a lot of people, my neighbors in particular,” he said. “It was simply not possible to continue living there. I had to beg money from my parents several times just to pay the rent.

Earlier this year, Camfferman realized he couldn’t live with his parents forever and couldn’t afford anything in the Tampa Bay area. He now lives in Carboro, North Carolina. He hopes to start taking classes at nearby North Carolina State University early next year. In the meantime, his job at Starbucks is enough to cover the rent.

Minimum wage and social security

Aside from Article 8 vouchers and other affordable housing programs, rental costs have been onerous to Long the lowest salaries in Tampa Bay. But over the past four decades, the number of hours a minimum wage employee would have to work in a week to afford a fair market unit has increased dramatically. That’s true despite minimum wage increases in Florida, including voters’ approval of a 2020 amendment that will set the minimum wage at $15 by 2026.

For older residents who depend on Social Security income, rental rates were high even in the 1980s. Now, however, a single person’s monthly Social Security check won’t even cover a studio apartment at the rent of the Tampa Bay Fair Market in 2022, and the situation isn’t much better for couples.

Who bears the burden?

Who is most at risk as rents continue to rise? Census data offers some suggestions. The relationship between average rent and median household income by race and gender has remained stable through the 2010s. The key takeaway, however, is that rental costs are heaviest for Black residents – who are more likely to rent than own their homes, compared to households of other races – and for single women without children, especially those who live alone.

Whatever happens next, rents seem unlikely to stop rising any time soon. CoStar estimated that in the second quarter of 2023, the average rent for the area will be $1,863. At about 5% more than the average rent in the second quarter of 2022, that would be a lot smaller increase than what we have seen in the past two years. The second half of 2021, for example, showed year-over-year increases of almost 25%. Still, that’s almost $100 more than the owners were asking for last June.

In early September, the federal government released its fair rents for 2023. The Tampa Bay-wide fair market rate for a studio was set at $1,291, just $56 less than the rate set for a T2. one year earlier. One bedroom rooms were up to $1381, 2 bed rooms $1659. In dollar terms, the region’s fair market rent increase was the largest on record.

Bodden, the paralegal long ago drawn to the space and sun of Tampa Bay, says she still hasn’t decided whether she’ll stay and spend more on rent, or see if she can find what the Florida once offered elsewhere. But it’s become clear to her, she says, that future generations of renters won’t see our area the same way she does.

“Florida will be inaccessible to them,” she said. “It’s not going to be the place where you can go and have that good life and that security and not worry about the cost of living.”

Speaking of what the past few years have brought, she looked melancholy.

“It was so sudden.”

The Tampa Bay Times has a team of reporters who focus on rising costs in our area. If you have an idea, question or story to tell, please email us at [email protected].

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