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Tampa rent prices keep rising. How are USF students managing?

Increases in rent prices ranging from $25 to $200 have become a reason for stress among students living off campus. ORACLE PHOTO/ALEXANDRA URBAN

For communications major Umaya Sakhi, rent is one of the most difficult things to afford as a college student. 

Sakhi said they have struggled with rent since their freshman year, having to balance schoolwork and a part time job to cover their living expenses.

“There are times where I’m able to save up in advance and I’m good for a couple of months, but things happen, and it’s kind of ridiculous that sometimes you’re realizing you might be facing eviction after you have two sick days,” Sakhi said. 

This year, Sakhi’s rent for their three-bedroom apartment has gone up to $780 compared to $729 last year. Sakhi said they had to sign the same lease again because they couldn’t find a cheaper one.

As students prepare to sign the dotted lines for housing next year, some are struggling to make ends meet as rent prices increase in Tampa. 

Rent prices in the Tampa Bay area have risen around 4.3% since this time last year, which is still better than pandemic-motivated rent increases of 13% in 2020-21 and 25% in 2022, according to the Tampa Bay Times

Related: Is USF affordable? Students say they can barely pay for food, housing

Senior economics major Will Mleczko said paying for rent while also having to pay back loans is a cause of stress for him as a full time college student.

Mleczko said he usually plans when to take out loans ahead of paying rent, but this year it was not enough. Unannounced rent increases and extra fees led him to take out more loans specifically to meet rent deadlines and keep his lease. 

“I have a lot of classes, as well as other activities and stuff, so I don’t have a lot of time to take a full time job again,” he said. “I will have to end up getting a job very soon because I’m taking out loans right now. Rent is really tight to make every month.” 

Senior communications and psychology major Bailey Ferns said he has seen a significant increase in his rent since his freshman year. Ferns lives in a two-bedroom apartment at College Town @ USF, and said his rent went up from $735 monthly last year to $900 this year. 

Ferns said he acknowledges his rent is relatively cheap compared to many others in the Tampa Bay area. The average cost of rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Tampa is $1,813, according to Rent.com.

Sakhi said rent increases are unjustified because there haven’t been any changes or improvements made to justify such a leap in price. 

“I also don’t understand how you’re going to jump from the lower end of $700 out of nowhere to the higher end of $700 when there’s absolutely no changes, no improvements, things are still kind of working the same,” they said.   

For Mlecczko, rising housing costs are unfair for other reasons. He said that, in addition to not warning him about the increase in rent, his landlord sold the house he lives in to an independent buyer before his lease ends in April 2024, and tried to have Mleczko and his four roommates out of the property within 50 days. 

Because the landlord is not legally allowed to do so, Mleczko said he and the other tenants got him to at least honor their lease.

Sophomore integrated public relations and advertising major Giovana Medeiros said her rent has gone up from $855 to $880 for the upcoming year. Medeiros said her parents help her pay for rent, but as an international student the exchange rate makes it even more expensive. 

“If I were to support myself, like paying for rent and stuff with the money that I get from my job, I wouldn’t be able to. So that’s a big reality check,” she said. 

Medeiros said she is only living off campus because she got a deal for a 12-month lease, which is more affordable considering the high cost of living for on-campus housing.

“I wish I could stay on campus, but the comfort of living off campus and having larger spaces and privacy and the insane rent prices on campus kind of make living off campus more worth it,” she said. 

On-campus housing rates for the Tampa campus were set to increase annually by 4.5% beginning this fall. Hall rates for the 2023-24 academic year range from $760.50 to $1,287 per month.

Ferns said the cost of living was initially easy to handle. However, he said over the years rent has become a struggle.

“I don’t have a job and just use my financial aid money, and usually that was covering things pretty well, but now I am struggling,” he said.