Darden Rice says she’s ‘impatient’ over St. Pete affordable housing

Darden rice
"We’ve been taking way too long to discuss how to address it."

St. Petersburg City Council member Darden Rice is tired of watching the issue of affordable housing languish.

So she’s doing something about it.

“No one disagrees that we have an attainable housing problem,” Rice said. “We’ve been taking way too long to discuss is how to address it. I’m getting impatient.”

Rice scheduled a new business item for the April 4 City Council meeting to discuss raising the city’s millage rate to provide revenue for an affordable housing trust fund. Under her proposal, any new construction on homes and buildings after 2020 would be subject to the tax increase.

The 2020 timeline takes into consideration that the tax increase would require a voter referendum.

It’s early days for the conversation, so how much that property tax increase would be is still an unknown.

“I think having dedicated revenue to fund affordable housing is an incredible opportunity to send a message to the community about what our city demands and it shows our level of commitment,” Rice told Florida Politics. “It’s an excellent message to say that we take affordable housing seriously.”

There are some misconceptions about what affordable housing means. Some people assume it’s low-income housing and, in part, it is. But affordable housing also includes “attainable housing” for middle-income earners and families.

“It runs the gamut,” she said. “We’re not just talking about public housing. A lot of people hear affordable housing and think that. But we’re also talking about middle-class housing, housing for senior citizens to age in place, housing for students who can, after college, find a place to live on their own.”

There are no shortage of affordable housing solutions. The concept of tiny homes and container housing have become popular in recent years.

Container housing uses cheap, but sustainable shipping containers to build homes at about half the cost of a traditional home. Tiny homes and micro-apartments are, well, small, and they offer an incentive to developers who can realize strong returns on investment by packing more units into the same amount of space as traditional multi and single-family housing. 

Young professionals are increasingly interested less in having a spacious home than they are in living in urban areas with access to amenities that are increasingly in demand.

But those solutions are disrupting conventional municipal policies, particularly involving parking requirements. For decades cities nationwide have required developers to provide a certain amount of parking per residential unit to ensure the nation’s car-centric society was accounted for.

More and more though, young people are making it clear they’d much rather have options that allow them to ditch their cars.

“We are looking at transit oriented development,” Rice said explaining how to address modern housing needs while balancing those with affordability. “We’re looking at the concept of parking maximums as opposed to parking minimums.”

That’s further incentive for developers who can either save cash on building parking structures or utilize more land for their developments that would have otherwise been sopped up by parking spaces.

Those parking requirement changes would apply to areas where residents would have access to transit and where amenities like grocery stores, retail shops and restaurants were accessible by walking or riding a bike.

Central Avenue would be a prime candidate for such types of redevelopment. The city and the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority are well on their way to breaking ground on a bus rapid transit route connecting downtown St. Pete to the Gulf Beaches along First Avenues North and South.

Part of that plan includes transit oriented development, which the city received a federal grant to study. Still, a new tax tends to be a hard sell.

In 2014 Pinellas County voters took a hard pass on a transit tax that would have funded sweeping improvements, for example.

But St. Pete is more progressive than the county as a whole. Rice hopes the recognition that there is an affordable housing crisis will be enough to dissuade those who would be otherwise reluctant to support a tax increase.  

“So far I have total and complete support from the business community as well as residents who realize that we have an affordable housing crisis,” Rice said.

City Council will discuss the issue next week and it’s likely to be sent to the city’s Affordable Housing or Housing, Land Use and Transportation committees for further discussion.

Janelle Irwin Taylor

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in Tampa Bay since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as senior reporter for WMNF News. Janelle has a lust for politics and policy. When she’s not bringing you the day’s news, you might find Janelle enjoying nature with her husband, children and two dogs. You can reach Janelle at [email protected].


  • Raymond Blacklidge

    March 27, 2019 at 11:36 am

    I wholeheartedly support affordable home ownership. Please look into ways of assisting families build equity by having them on a road to ownership rather than just give people a temporary place to stay. Homeownership helps families build wealth.

  • Susan Cooper Eastman

    March 28, 2019 at 12:39 am

    Yes, Darden Rice! You bring it up and everyone will make it happen!

Comments are closed.


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704