As Tampa struggles to house an influx of new Floridians, some students are facing financial challenges with increased rent pricing for off-campus housing as they search for new leases for the fall.
For junior health sciences major Maddie Mauzy, keeping up with rent prices in Tampa — especially surrounding USF — was no longer an affordable option. Mauzy said she now has to commute 20 minutes to campus from her apartment in Carrollwood so she can afford to balance day-to-day expenses, school and groceries.
Although she has already made the sacrifice to make a longer commute, Mauzy said increased rent prices in the area are also making her choose whether she can afford her pharmaceutical needs or make her housing payments on time.
“I haven’t paid for my medication because I’m trying to pay my rent,” she said. “If I pay the $150 [for my medicine], I’ll be $150 short for rent unless I pick up more shifts at work, but then my school suffers.”
At the start of COVID-19, Florida saw a 1.1% leap in residents between April 2020 and July 2021, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. This translates to an additional 236,921 Floridians in the span of 15 months.
Despite being two years into the pandemic, migration to Florida to escape strict COVID-19 laws of the north and enjoy warmer weather is still trending upward, according to a February Tampa Bay Times article. A March article said Tampa is the third most desirable city among Americans, attracting 9,000 newcomers in just the first two months of 2022.
Between the flood of new residents to the area and historic levels of inflation, rent prices in Tampa have been on the rise as well.
Junior biomedical sciences and The Flats resident Laura Taylor said she was skeptical about re-signing her lease for her current apartment when she saw it would cost her an extra $20 a month.
If it weren’t for the comfort of retaining the same roommates she’s developed a close relationship with and the hassle of searching for another apartment, Taylor said she would have moved out.
Despite having the financial aid of her parents, Taylor said she has had to become more cautious when grocery shopping, including not buying as much food as she has in the past to make up for the new rates.
“I don’t go grocery shopping as much as I used to,” she said. “I try to stretch it out as much as possible. And then when I go home, try and see if my parents could buy me anything.”
Compared to the rest of the nation, last year Tampa experienced the highest increased rent price, surging monthly payments by 24.8% from July to September, while the rest of the country went up 11%, according to a November ABC article.
Overall, Tampa is facing increased rent prices because there aren’t enough apartments to keep up with the demand, according to News Channel 8. However, nuanced economic and political factors that have been impacting the cost of materials, fuel and space available have slowed the process down of the supply matching the demand.
USF-affiliated off-campus housing has become no exception to these very same pressures challenging the rest of the Tampa Bay region.
In 2019, The Flats at 4200 charged a monthly rate of $750-$770 for a four-by-four apartment, depending on its location, according to a student housing information Dropbox. The same floor plan three years later ranges between $870-$880, according to its website.
The Flats is not the only complex conforming to the increased prices. A four-by-four apartment at Avalon Heights now costs residents $804 a month, while in 2019 the same floorplan was $100 less.
As of now, there are no signs Tampa rent prices are going to improve in affordability, according to a March Tampa Bay Times article. In fact, they are expected to get even worse in the near future unless the housing shortages are satisfied.