Tampa City Council changes course on tenant’s bill of rights — again
Renters are bracing for a wave of evictions.

The City Council received pushback after shooting the measure down two weeks ago, prompting its revival.

The Tampa City Council Thursday unanimously approved a measure adding a tenant’s bill of rights and income protection to the city’s housing laws just two weeks after voting down the same measure.

“Sometimes, a second look yields better results and it did today,” Council Member Luis Viera said. “This ordinance is not only an anti-discrimination bill, it is also about housing accessibility during a brutal housing crisis. During this time of economic dislocation, the people are watching and I am glad that council members, all of whom have good hearts on this issue, voted yes unanimously. It made right a wrong.”

Viera had just stepped away from the dais on Feb. 3 when the bill of rights was brought up for second reading and adoption. Just a few weeks earlier, the ordinance passed its first reading with a 6-1 vote. When it was brought up again, council members reversed course and voted it down 4-2 with Viera absent. Viera said he’d only stepped away because he was confident a measure that passed nearly unanimously on its first reading would breeze through the second.

It did not.

Viera then pledged to bring the measure back. He did.

Members of the public came out to voice their support of the measure and express shock that it hadn’t passed.

“People are concerned. People are hurting,” said Robin Lockett, regional director of Florida Rising. “This is the time that you choose who you are going to fight for: your constituents or corporations.”

Council Member John Dingfelder reluctantly supported the ordinance when it was first read and voted against it the second time. He said he was concerned mandating landlords notify tenants of their rights would be too burdensome. He also feared the income anti-discrimination portion would force unwitting landlords into programs like Section 8. But Viera pointed out an identical Hillsborough County ordinance that’s been in effect for nearly a year hasn’t caused any problems. Dingfelder said after doing more research and hearing from the public, he could support the measure.

“I think we might get some pushback,” Dingfelder said. “But that’s okay. Because I heard enough this morning to say it’s the right thing to do.”

Council Member Joe Citro said he voted down the bill because he was afraid of preemption from Tallahassee. But with so many people moving between county-controlled areas and city-controlled areas, he said it is important to have consistency.

“This whole bill of rights should be a state issue just like driver’s licenses, just like concealed weapons permits,” Citro said. “But since that bill failed, I am going to support this issue so that we have some connectivity between at least the city of Tampa and Hillsborough County and maybe some other jurisdictions.”

The ordinance will be presented once more for second reading during the March 17 City Council meeting.

Daniel Figueroa IV

Bronx, NY —> St. Pete, Fla. Just your friendly, neighborhood journo junkie with a penchant for motorcycles and Star Wars. Daniel has spent the last decade covering Tampa Bay and Florida for the Ledger of Lakeland, Tampa Bay Times, and WMNF. You can reach Daniel Figueroa IV at [email protected].


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