TAMPA, Fla. — The nonprofit Florida TaxWatch released a commentary update on the state's housing rental market Thursday, saying rent increases seen statewide in recent years go beyond what trends had predicted.
"I mean, it's historical," St. Petersburg Tenants Union organizer Jack Wallace said of increases in that city. "It's some of the biggest rates that have risen in the entire nation."
The commentary cites apartment list rental data from January that shows since 2020, the prices of one- and two-bedroom apartments are up more than 29% in Orlando, more than 36% in St. Pete, and more than 38% in Tampa.
"It's a huge jump, and we are seeing the effects," said Antoinette Hayes-Triplett, CEO of the Tampa Hillsborough Homeless Initiative.
According to the report, information from the Waller, Weeks, and Johnson Rental Index shows Florida is home to nine of the 25 most overvalued rental markets nationwide. On that list, Tampa ranks seventh, Orlando comes in 12th, and Lakeland is 21st.
"This report was basically just a confirmation of what we've sort of been seeing and hearing from people on the ground here in St. Petersburg," said Wallace.
The St. Petersburg Tenants Union fought last year to get rent control on the city ballot. That didn't happen, but Wallace said there are other steps leaders can take to ease the housing crisis, particularly when it comes to redevelopment of the Tropicana Field site.
"Put public housing there so that we can actually have housing that's based off of somebody's income rather than the whims of some corporate landlord," he said.
Hayes-Triplett said her team first noticed rents beginning to rise in 2018. Since then, she said one of the groups that's been particularly impacted is senior citizens, with THHI seeing a 67% increase in seniors seeking housing services.
The Florida TaxWatch commentary points to the state's population boom, slow apartment construction, and the pandemic as factors in driving rents up. Hayes-Triplett said she sees those same factors at play in Hillsborough County.
"Even some of the areas that were less desirable neighborhoods in the past are more desirable than they were three or four years ago. As you look around, you can see gentrification happening throughout Tampa, and I think that's part of the cause," she said.
When asked about a solution, Hayes-Triplett had a simple response: affordable housing.
"I think we need to invest in more affordable housing, just as much as we are investing in luxury apartments that are coming up throughout our community," she said. "And I don't think we're doing it at the same pace."
According to Florida TaxWatch, price increases may slow down in the coming months thanks to relaxed demand and additional supply, but officials said that doesn't mean current prices will drop.