It’s called the REACH Conference — Resilience and Energy Assessment of Communities and Housing — and it happens Friday, May 6.
It’s a joint venture between the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council, the Florida Housing Coalition, Forward Pinellas and the Urban Land Institute Tampa Bay to address an emerging housing crisis in the region.
County commissioners, City Council members and other leaders from Manatee, Pasco, Hillsborough and Pinellas county communities will meet for a full day of workshops and strategy sessions at the Carillon Park Hilton in north St. Pete.
Housing affordability has emerged as a crucial issue for regional communities emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic. Tampa Mayor Jane Castor pledged to add 10,000 affordable units by 2027. And in St. Pete Mayor Ken Welch‘s administration committed more than $34 million of the $45 million it received from the American Rescue Plan Act to housing affordability.
In March, the St. Pete City Council approved a new development near Gibbs High School that will bring 264 affordable housing units to the city, among other new developments and initiatives implemented to keep people in their homes or rehome them.
“This is the first development of its kind in the state under HB 1339, which allows municipal governments to approve development of affordable housing on any parcel zoned for residential, commercial or industrial use,” Welch said. “This is how innovation, collaboration and common purpose move us to success.”
Those ideas — innovation, collaboration and common purpose — are part of what will bring leaders together. Strategies for affordable housing come with a number of challenges, including ensuring new construction is resilient to rising tides and flooding throughout Tampa Bay. There are also the rising costs of construction materials amid other inflation-related cost increases to be considered, and what to do about rents.
A housing affordability study conducted by Harvard University found nearly half of St. Pete renters are cost-burdened. It also found about 69% of renters who make 50% or less than the area median income spend more than half that income on rent.
Another key part of the conference will focus on sustainability in affordable housing, including reducing energy bills with weatherization and energy efficiency programs. Leaders also will discuss opportunities to increase funding for housing mitigation in vulnerable communities.
The REACH Conference will be held at the Hilton St. Petersburg Carillon Park, 950 Lake Carillon Dr. from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.