Tampa, Florida. – If you never imagined yourself homeless, 37-year-old Sharda Williams was next to you. That is, about a month ago, when a dispute with the landlord eventually forced her to leave the house she had rented for more than two years.
“We became homeless at Easter,” she said. “My daughter’s birthday was Easter, and we’ve been living in a hotel ever since.”
In Hillsborough County, rental prices have risen by at least 30%, among the highest in the state. Williams, who works from home as a customer service representative, found herself homeless.
“I don’t understand,” Williams said. ».
Just over a week ago, Williams and her four children moved into a one-bedroom hotel room at Karma Nest in Tampa. Her local school district sent her to a hotel and, she said, covered the payment for the first week.
Asked what scares her the most, Williams replied: “I’ll be here for a long time. It’s scary for me. “
Williams is not the only working mom to have moved into a hotel without an graduation date.
A few weeks ago reporter Katie LaGron introduced the audience to Angela Woods. Woods is a senior financial services accountant for the Florida Department of Transportation.
“I am what you would consider homeless,” said Woods in the courtyard of the same hotel where she had lived with her four children for nearly a year. “I tell my children that you work, you have the right to everything. You take care of yourself, you have a right to things. So I never thought I would find myself in such a situation. It sometimes shocks me. “
Woods and Williams are among the unknown number of working families in Florida who first faced homelessness. They have fallen victim to a new housing crisis that has affected people who work but are unable to budget to cover unprecedented increases in rental prices.
While Florida ranks third in population across the country, it also ranks third in the states with the highest number of homeless people, and this, according to national estimates, feared by fans, is understated.
“The issue of family homelessness is a critical issue,” Family promises Said CEO Claas Ehlers. “The lack of affordable housing is the worst thing I’ve ever seen.”
Among the solutions he supports include what is called “inclusive zoning”.
It is a progressive zoning policy that allows local authorities to encourage private developers to build more affordable housing. Across the state, cities and counties that evaded zoning restrictions are now reconsidering this because of the affordable housing crisis.
“It’s not that if you allow quadplexes in your community, it will immediately turn into a bunch of houses,” he said. “You can do it in a very manageable way and you can work with affordable housing developers to create really suitable housing. This is one way to relieve the pressure of affordable housing. “
Jamie Ross, executive director of the Florida Housing Coalition, is working with governments to find solutions and warns of the consequences if housing in Florida does not become more affordable for the working class.
“If you’re not worried about our housing market, if you’re not worried about our homelessness, our homeless families, then look at California because it’s us in the future,” she said.
Williams expects to leave his home state of Florida to move north to Georgia.
“I don’t need to talk here and fight,” she said.
Woods remains in place, but doesn’t know how much longer she will call the hotel her “home”.
“It’s scary when a hotel is cheaper than housing, it’s a problem,” Woods said.
While local governments across Florida are holding special meetings and conferences to find answers, a group of lawmakers recently asked the governor to add the topic of affordable housing to a special session next week. Governor DeSantis has not yet responded to them with an answer.