Housing Costs Drive Price of New Hires for USF St. Petersburg

High housing costs are causing some new University of South Florida recruits who have taken jobs in St. Petersburg to turn them down, according to the university’s new regional chancellor.

For many faculty positions, the hiring process begins a year before the fall semester.

According to a recent study, Tampa Bay has one of the most overvalued rental markets, and median sales prices for single-family homes in the area reached more than $400,000 in May.

Related: Home prices in Tampa Bay hit new highs in May. It might not last.

“I’m losing teachers because they’ll take a job, they’ll come here, then three weeks later they say I can’t afford to live here,” Christian Hardigree said at a recent partnership meeting. in downtown St. Petersburg. .

For every hire that doesn’t accept the job, the school loses about $50,000 to $100,000 on the search process and about nine months of teaching until the next hiring cycle, she said. during a meeting.

Hardigree, who started in July, said in an interview that at the St. Petersburg campus, which typically sees only three to five new faculty hires a year, losing even one or two can have a significant impact, resulting in the delayed start of programs. or the development of laboratory spaces.

“This is a significant issue for St. Pete,” she said. “Housing is a big issue for so many places in Florida. … For us, it’s even more of an impact. It’s not just availability. We have lower inventory. We have less turnover. So you’re really at the mercy of what’s at your price in a month or two before trying to secure that.

Related: Tampa Bay has the 3rd most overvalued rent prices

Many of the new hires, she said, come directly from doctoral programs and graduate student salaries.

She came up with an idea: offer subsidized housing rates for a year while teachers can move in with their families. It would give them time to find places where they feel like they belong, she said, and build a “brains trust” in the city. She said ideally she would like to be able to extend offers like this also to staff, who she has learned over the past month have also been hit by rising costs.

Alison Barlow, executive director of St. Petersburg’s Innovation District, a cluster of downtown science, technology, health and arts organizations, said it’s an issue she’s heard about all over. the city, including hospitals and tech companies that have expressed concern. recruitment factor.

“They know people can go the extra mile to find housing, but that’s kind of counterproductive to what we would like to promote in St. Pete as a way of life,” she said. “If you have to drive 45 minutes to get to work, that’s what happens in other big cities, why should it happen here?”

Related: Tampa Bay’s booming real estate market has finally cooled. What buyers need to know.

Barlow said major employers are now exploring creative solutions, including entering into public-private partnerships to build housing for their workers and looking at what other cities and communities have done.

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The Innovation District is looking at how existing land could be repurposed.

Those plans, Barlow said, are still in the early stages.

“It’s something we’re all going to have to get involved in,” Barlow said. “This is not going to be solved by a single entity. It will take government, not-for-profit and for-profit sectors coming together. »

Times editor Colleen Wright contributed to this report. Divya Kumar covers higher education for the Tampa Bay Times, in partnership with Open Campus.

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