On August 1 Pinellas County Commissioners approved an ordinance that would put the one percent sales tax known as “Penny for Pinellas” referendum on the November 2017 ballot.
- Tax helps pay for county projects
- Residents want 4 percent allocated to affordable housing
- Vote in Nov. will extend tax for next decade
"Penny for Pinellas" helps pay for numerous projects across the county, but many are worried that not enough money from the tax is being allocated to housing for low income families.
Hundreds of concerned citizens from the group “Faith and Action For Strength Together” showed up to Tuesday’s meeting to ask commissioners to allocate more funding for low income housing.
"Nothing was available," said Tammara Anderson, a veteran and lifelong St. Pete resident recently forced out of her home after it was deemed uninhabitable. "There was a waiting list or you'd have to wait five years, so I had to go move in with my daughter and grandbaby in a one-bedroom apartment which I slept on the couch for over a year."
Anderson ended up finding a place to live in Clearwater, but said she has to now drive at least 20 miles every day to go to work, go to church, and see her family.
Concerned citizens like Anderson are worried that the needs of low income families will be overshadowed by other projects, and want commissioners to allocate at least four percent of the tax money to affordable housing.
"We know that much good has come from the Penny," said Reverend Kathleen Walter. "However, when money is put for housing needs and needs for the poor, it often gets pulled away and used for other resources."
Commissioners assured the residents at Tuesday’s meeting that affordable housing is a priority, but do not want to change the language of their agreement so they can be flexible with how the money is spent.
The residents, in turn, said they won’t give up until their voices are heard.
"We will continue to be the voice," Walter said. "We will continue to be the people who stand up for those in our community who are in such great need."
Penny for Pinellas has been in effect since 1990. If passed in November, it will be extended another ten years.
For more information about the tax, visit http://www.pinellascounty.org/penny/.