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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.

Sarasota County earmarks federal money for affordable housing, opens Section 8 waiting list

Downtown high rise with view of street and bay.
Sarasota City Government
According to new data from Apartment List, Sarasota County's average rent increased about 50% from just one year ago.

Based on recommendations from community non-profits, the Sarasota County Commission has agreed to contribute $25 million in federal pandemic relief funds to create almost 700 new units of affordable housing.

More immediately, the county's poorest families can now apply to be added to the county's waiting list for Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers.

Yani Rosado, HCV Director of the Sarasota Housing Authority, says the agency will use a lottery system to randomly choose 1,250 applicants for the actual waiting list.

"Our goal is to house people as soon as possible." she said. "After the list closes, we're going to start pulling names from the waiting list."

Rosado says the agency expects to be able to issue vouchers fairly quickly to between 50 and 100 families.

The Housing Choice Voucher program helps tenants pay a share of their rent to private landlords.

Rosado says the agency has already received close to 3,000 new requests since Friday, so applicants should start preparing now.

"They need to have their paperwork, their social security cards, their birth certificates and their pay stubs," she said "It's very important because the sooner we get the file ready, the sooner they can start getting assistance."

Applications will be accepted through noon, Monday, April 18th.

In February 2022, Sarasota County leaders gathered to celebrate the opening of Amaryllis Park Place, an affordable 84-unit apartment building on Orange Avenue which serves residents 62 years and older.

The first phase of Lofts on Lemon in downtown Sarasota is expected to open later this year, with workforce units set aside for police officers, firefighters, teachers and nurses.

As a reporter, my goal is to tell a story that moves you in some way. To me, the best way to do that begins with listening. Talking to people about their lives and the issues they care about is my favorite part of the job.