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More and more people are finding themselves living paycheck to paycheck in the greater Tampa Bay region. In some places, rent has doubled. The cost of everyday goods — like gas and groceries — keeps creeping up. All the while, wages lag behind and the affordable housing crisis looms. Amid cost-of-living increases, WUSF is focused on documenting how people are making ends meet.

United Way Suncoast releases a housing affordability crisis dashboard

Rent sign
Rich Pedroncelli
We know that the cost of rent is high. Now, United Way Suncoast has put together a dashboard that puts the figures that explain the affordable housing crisis in one place.

It hopes to help spread awareness about the housing affordability crisis with the dashboard, which will be updated regularly.

We know that the cost of rent is high. Now, United Way Suncoast has put together a dashboard that puts the figures that explain the affordable housing crisis in one place.

The dashboard contains data about rental rates, eviction filings, and available emergency rent assistance in the Tampa Bay area.

It covers five counties: Hillsborough, Manatee, Pinellas, Sarasota, and DeSoto.

Collection of data and graphs
United Way Suncoast
United Way Suncoast's Housing Crisis Dashboard shows information about rent prices, evictions and emergency rental assistance funds for five Tampa Bay area counties.

The organization used six weeks of data from various sources, including the U.S. Treasury and the Shimberg Center for Housing Studies to launch the dashboard.

UWSDirector of Workforce Development and Financial Stability Douglas Griesenauer said the information will be updated regularly.

“Updating the data varies by area by site and source,” he said. “So for example, the apartment data that we're tracking is updated monthly; U.S. housing data is also updated monthly, but U.S. Treasury has a bit of a delay as they clean their data.”

An important initial finding, Griesenauer added, is that many two-income households in the area are severely rent cost-burdened.

“Ideally, people should be spending about 30% of their income on housing,” he said. “And if that's the case, we know that at our current minimum wage of $10 an hour, two full-time earners are considered severely cost-burdened to get the average rent across our region, which is $1,900 a month.”

Recent Florida legislation raised the minimum wage of workers from $10 to $15 an hour. However, this will happen incrementally and will not reach $15 until Sept. 30, 2026.

Additionally, Grisenauer said the data shows that eviction filings have returned to pre-pandemic levels.

Grisenauer wants people to be aware of these statistics, especially legislators.

“The scope and the magnitude of these crises really impacts a large swath of our community,” he said.

For those struggling with rent prices, Grisenauer encourages them to seek out resources in their communities.

“Most counties still have emergency rental assistance funds that are out there that can help them secure rent, it does take some time to apply for and to receive, but they can get sometimes 12 or up to 18 months of rent depending on their county,” he said.

Other potential assistance includes United Way's eviction mitigation supports or local 211 services.

I am WUSF’s Rush Family Radio News Intern for spring 2022.