Tampa launches housing helpline

TAMPA – The city launched a housing information line on Tuesday to help residents avoid eviction, interact with landlords and access housing and mortgage assistance.

Mayor Jane Castor’s announcement came less than a week after city council members unanimously approved a request that the mayor set up a two-person advocacy office worth $400,000 to help residents affected by rising housing costs.

Related: Tampa City Council wants to strengthen tenant rights

Last week the mayor was without obligation at the law firm. But on Tuesday, her spokesperson, Lauren Rozyla, said the mayor is warm to the idea.

“For the time being, yes, the mayor supports the tenants’ interest office. We wanted to get this off the ground right away to help residents,” Rozyla wrote in an email.

City councilors asked for the office to be included in the mayor’s upcoming budget, which will be presented to councilors in August.

The housing hotline is manned by city call center agents on weekdays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Residents can call 813-307-5555 as of Tuesday, according to a press release from the city.

“There is no greater priority than preventing Tampa residents from being priced out, and city councilors and I are tackling this crisis on multiple fronts: zoning changes, incentives for affordable housing, immediate aid and more.” Castor said in a statement. “This hotline is just a small step, but every step is important, and we must do everything we can to help those who are struggling to get a roof over their heads.”

Related: Tampa looks to Miami-Dade, Gainesville for help with housing crisis

Councilman Guido Maniscalco, who oversaw the creation of a tenant law firm similar to the one recently launched in Miami-Dade County, said he needs to learn more about the program. However, Maniscalco said he hopes city dwellers, dozens of whom have turned up at council meetings this year to complain about the increasingly unaffordable city, will experience some relief.

As of Tuesday morning, Maniscalco only knew about the program what he had read in the city news. Castor plans to hold a press conference over lunch to explain the program.

“Maybe they’re trying to offer the same service without spending the $400,000. If it’s in line with what I’ve suggested – as long as it gets done – I’m happy with it. In the end it’s a team effort,” Maniscalco says. “I’m just waiting to see what happens.”

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