Tampa Bay counties to work on regional transportation to address affordable housing

REACH - Commissioners panel 1080p
'We need to start acting like the urban region we are and focusing on transportation.'

Commissioners from the Tampa Bay counties of Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Manatee agreed on at least one solution to the growing emerging housing crisis — regional transportation.

Pinellas County Commissioner Pat Gerard, Manatee County Commissioner George Kruse, Hillsborough County Commissioner Kim Overman and Pasco County Commissioner Kathryn Starkey took part in a panel discussion addressing housing initiatives in Tampa Bay during Friday’s Resilience and Energy Assessment of Communities and Housing (REACH) conference in St. Petersburg.

“Your transportation to employment is effectively a housing cost. Because the further you live from your employment, the further you live from your kid’s school, the more cost you have,” Kruse said. “The further I push somebody out, the harder I make it for them to get where they need to go and it puts them further and further into a housing burdened situation.”

The entire country is in the midst of a housing affordability crisis, with Florida and the Tampa Bay area leading the grim statistics. Tampa Bay has seen some of the highest rental rate and inflation increases in the country over the last year. And recent reporting has dubbed Florida the least affordable state in America.

Commissioners said adding affordable housing inventory is crucial, but the problem is as much about cost as it is about culture.

“We need to start acting like the urban region we are and focusing on transportation,” Gerard said. “The idea that we’re all going to get in a car and drive around after this is pretty absurd. Given the density and the number of people that are moving in here, we should’ve started planning 30 years ago.”

Gerard, who also serves as chair of the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority, said Pinellas is “willing and ready to work with Hillsborough County on regional transit.”

Overman said in Hillsborough, two-thirds of bus routes only operate hourly. The only way to travel around the county is by car, she said. But owning a car can add $10,000-$20,000 to annual household expenses, pushing families further from housing affordability.

“If your car breaks down in Hillsborough County, you lose your ability to take care of your family or you lose the opportunity to go to school,” Overman said. “In our case, transit availability and community building became the biggest hurdle we had.”

Overman said one of the most crucial aspects of solving the affordable housing crisis is building a robust transportation system. 

Hillsborough’s transportation efforts have been hamstrung by Commissioner Stacy White, who sued after county residents overwhelmingly supported the All For Transportation tax created to build a transportation war chest. White’s suit was successful, and the county hasn’t been allowed to spend the nearly half-a-billion dollars the tax generated.

The All For Transportation tax will return to the ballot in November. Overman said leaders can’t even begin to seriously discuss affordable housing unless they’re addressing transportation.

“There is an absolute correlation,” Overman said. “We’ve not said that and I think the public needs to understand that. We’ll get there. But it’s going to take a while.”

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]


4 comments

  • tom palmer

    May 6, 2022 at 6:25 pm

    Unless transit gets people from their homes to their jobs in real time, the result will not be good.

  • Dawn Baumgardt

    May 9, 2022 at 3:56 am

    Why can they not get it together with CSX? The rails run all the way through the county. CSX lines in other parts of the country are used as commuter rails yet I never see any leaders actually talking with them. CSX is a business, unused tracks don’t make money. Is THEA a deterrent to this?

  • Steve Byrd

    May 13, 2022 at 4:56 pm

    I think this should have gone past the talking stage and into the doing stage, by merging HART, PSTA and the adjacent county transit agencies into the current “paper tiger” that is TBARTA.

  • neil cosentino

    May 13, 2022 at 6:21 pm

    That is why we recommended to Senator Galvano to fund TBARTA
    A major solution are Camelot Florida’s FASTA CommUNUTY Circulators

Comments are closed.


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