ST. PETERSBURG, FL — With city councilors poised to take up the discussion of rent control again at Thursday’s meeting, protesters plan to set up an emergency tent city outside St. Petersburg City Hall and host an overnight sleep-in protest.
At their Aug. 4 meeting, city councilors voted 4-3 to move forward with a discussion about adding a rent control referendum to the Nov. 8 ballot. They’ll hold a public hearing Thursday on the matter and decide whether to add it to the ballot for voter consideration.
The deadline to submit the referendum to the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections is Aug. 16.
Protest organizer Jack Wallace with the St. Petersburg Tenants Union told Patch that the council’s decision was “a great win for the people of St. Petersburg, but our work is not over.”
He pointed to the city of Tampa, where the council recently rejected adding a rent stabilization referendum to the ballot this year. Though the council initially supported hosting a public hearing on the topic, only two councilors voted to move the measure forward, WFTS Tampa Bay reported.
“See what’s happened in Tampa. They voted it up by a wide margin the first time and on the second asking, it fell apart,” Wallace said. “That Aug. 11 meeting will be incredibly important to get this over the line.”
Protesters also previously camped outside city hall the night before the Aug. 4 meeting. Dozens of them spoke during public comment sections.
Those joining Wednesday’s protest are encouraged to bring blankets, tents and other supplies.
“We’re tired of getting gouged, we’re tired of having to choose between food and rent, and we’re tired of getting evicted and displaced,” the Facebook event page for the protest reads. “The City Council has a duty to act now. All people must have the fundamental right to housing. The City Council has the full authority to make sure this gets on the ballot. The only thing stopping them is political will. The only people who oppose rent control are landlords, developers, and real estate investors. If City Council does not move forward, it shows who they really work for.”
Some councilors previously expressed concern that a rent control measure could lead to legal issues for the city, while others thought there could be other tools to manage housing affordability.