I’ve made it clear when I was appointed to Tampa City Council that affordable housing would be my greatest passion, and it’s been my top priority in office. The city doesn’t work without its workers, and any future growth without them in mind is both reckless and doomed to implode. Tampa’s future hinges on our ability to provide shelter for its workers; we can provide safe, affordable housing that allows us to rethink the city’s infrastructure, reducing the amount of cars on the road and the amount of time cars spend on our highways. By searching through city and CRA budgets, I have nearly doubled our funding for affordable housing — and I don’t intend to stop there.

Like people, policy is intersectional, and transportation goes hand in hand with housing. At the moment, we have over a billion dollars in backlog for transportation needs.  Our traffic situation is frankly a crisis, with pedestrian deaths higher than anywhere else in the US. With a massive influx of people coming to Tampa, the city must evolve to better serve us all. The hard reality is that we know the right solutions and it takes a proper investment. Like education, there are some policy fronts we simply cannot afford to be cheap on, especially when we know statistically that better public transit and infrastructure connects workers and students to their communities, enriching them and allowing for the character of a city to actually flourish.

Tampa has suffered a “more is more” mentality in regards to our spending on this issue, and it’s time we got creative. We have over $20 million in CRA funds to use for housing, but that doesn’t mean that we constantly have to build new units; we are inundated with existing units that can be fixed up using prorated provisions, allowing recipients to pay portions back if they sell, even before their contracts have been fulfilled. This type of investment helps rein in gentrification and keep Tampeños in their neighborhoods long term.

We also have to reevaluate the “sprawl,” and tighten up our developmental density! We can achieve this by changing the code to encourage healthier growth, allowing for accessory dwelling units (ADUs) and missing middle housing (duplexes, triplexes, and quads). We’ve seen how neighborhoods like Seminole Heights have thrived as a result of form-based codes that promote development while maintaining the historic character of the neighborhood, and all of Tampa would benefit from this approach. Our city has to be able to step into the future with its people and its cultural identity intact.