When Property Appraiser Bob Henriquez gathered community leaders to discuss the “State of the Market” in Hillsborough County last month, the group included Doug Griesenauer, United Way Suncoast Senior Director, Workforce Development & Financial Stability.
Henriquez, who has served as property appraiser since 2012, led the three-hour session at Tampa’s Cuban Club. It included multiple panel discussions on commercial, retail and residential real estate. Doug joined the “community panel” that also included Tampa Bay Economic Development Council CEO Craig Richard and Hillsborough County director of management and budget Kevin Brickey.
While much of the discussion accentuated some of the county’s best assets as the market continues to attract new residents and companies, the panel didn’t shy away from addressing some of the ancillary challenges. Doug balanced the discussion during the panel discussion by noting that housing remains one of the area’s biggest challenges, in part because long-time residents are having to compete with those newcomers as well as national and international investors.
“We (recently) had a conference of nonprofit case workers and the energy in the room was low because people were talking about the calls coming in from individuals needing support for housing,” Doug explained to the audience.
It’s a story all too familiar to those who lead our housing crisis efforts: Doug, UWS Senior Manager of Financial Stability Nichole Pena and Chief Impact Officer Emery Ivery. In the fall of 2021, they helped launch UWS’ $3 million initiative to address the immediate needs spurred by rising rental rates and increasing eviction filings. That effort, which includes collaborations with legal aid organizations, strategic community partners and municipal agencies, continues to create positive impacts.
Doug explained to the audience that those positives are needed because the need is not limited to those seeking affordable housing. People who represent our ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) population – households making up to $74,000 a year – also are struggling to find housing.
“We had a nurse who got a great job at one of our local hospitals but had to turn it down because she couldn’t find housing anywhere near where she was working,” Doug said at the forum. “I think what’s interesting is that it ripples along into every other aspect of an individual’s life.”
The ripples also have affected seniors, some of whom have moved out of residences they’ve called home for 25 years due to steep rental increases.
The housing crisis, Doug noted, also challenges companies who are struggling with employee retention because workers can’t find a home. The problem has prompted some to leave Tampa Bay and move to neighboring states or Midwest areas where homes are more affordable.
What can be done? In addition to providing assistance to those facing a crisis, United Way Suncoast will continue to advocate for policies that can impact the issue. The state legislature could take greater steps to ensure the Sadowski Housing Trust Fund.
And as Doug and other speakers at the State of the Market event stated, the area needs more public/private partnerships creating mixed-income residences. Doug shared that the Shimberg Center for Housing Studies at the University of Florida estimates that the Tampa Bay MSA needs 100,000 units to meet current needs.