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Report highlights a Black exodus from St. Petersburg

Mark Parker



From left: Deni Brave, Jamison Carnegie, Robert Gallardo and James Faison at a Black tech entrepreneurial conference. Gallardo is among the many young African American professionals who recently chose to relocate from St. Petersburg. Photo provided.

A recently released report found that St. Petersburg lost 10% of its African American residents between 2018 and 2022; the demographic grew by 16% across the rest of Pinellas County.

St. Petersburg-based Urban Market Analytics (UMA), a Power Broker Media Group subsidiary, released the 26-page analysis Dec. 27. Power Broker Magazine simultaneously opened a survey to discover why the “Black exodus rate reached record highs over the past three years.”

According to the study, UMA officials shared a previous version with local equity leaders in May 2023. It states that the latest census data, released Dec. 7, “not only confirmed the trend but showed it gaining speed.”

An upcoming follow-up report will feature survey results and insights into the migration shift’s causes and consequences. Gypsy Gallardo, CEO of UMA and Power Broker, shared some preliminary findings with the Catalyst.

“We’re seeing emotions ranging from cynicism to a love of St. Pete,” Gallardo said. “And lots of recommendations for what needs to happen or change.”

The report found that St. Petersburg’s Black population shrank for a fourth consecutive year. However, the demographic increased by 7% throughout Florida.

In addition, African Americans are the only racial and ethnic group in the city with a net population loss (5%) over the past decade. Caucasian, Asian, Hispanic and Native American demographics increased by 5%, 25%, 39% and 60%, respectively, between 2012 and 2022.

According to the analysis, “the trend appears to be strongest among younger and college-educated African Americans.” James Faison, CEO of The Mainframe, a local nonprofit dedicated to supporting Black tech entrepreneurs, echoed that sentiment.

“I’ve been saying this for a while now – it’s an urgent issue that we need to focus on before it becomes something that’s irreversible,” Faison said. “It’s hard to keep quality upcoming and coming talent to seriously consider this home when they don’t see others around, reflective of their goals and ambitions, thriving in the community.”

A study graphic showing population growth in St. Petersburg across various demographics. Screengrab.

St. Petersburg has historically boasted a thriving African American community. In 1990, 71% of the county’s black residents called the city home.

That percentage decreased to 61% in 2010 and has since dwindled to around 50%. In total, St. Petersburg lost nearly 4,000 more Black residents than it gained in 2021 and 2022.

While still lagging behind the county and state, the city’s African American population increased by an annual average of .07% from 2000 to 2018. That abruptly reversed to a 2.4% average annual decrease between 2018 and 2022.

That precipitous drop coincided with the city’s recent growth spurt. Housing demand surpassing supply and increasing interest rates caused the local mortgage affordability index to triple between January 2021 and 2023.

The average monthly rent soared 35% in 2021 and increased another 15% in 2022.

City officials are aware of the problem. Mayor Ken Welch noted in a recent interview that parents once wondered if their children would return to St. Petersburg after college due to a perceived lack of opportunities. “The question now is if it is a place they can afford to come back to,” he added.

“I’ve never seen this level of activity and excitement around St. Pete,” Welch said. “But I’m also hearing – and I feel myself – a real concern that we don’t make St. Pete a place that’s exclusive, and that we don’t price folks out.”

The report’s findings validate those concerns. It highlights that Clearwater’s Black population grew by 4,715, and Largo’s increased by 3,566 between 2012 and 2022.

Unincorporated Bay Pines had just 10 African American residents in 2010. It now has around 140.

“In terms of opinions about the causes of the trend, housing costs are top of the list, for sure,” Gallardo said. “The lack of cultural access and opportunities is coming up repeatedly, and I see comments that either name or seem to point to structural racism in both the economy and culture.”

Here are some anonymous survey responses, edited for clarity and length:

  • “I have met several African Americans who have moved here from northern locations, and they felt they were not welcomed here by the Black community.”
  • “Housing prices are very expensive. The (city’s) down payment ‘grant’ needs to be reviewed and possibly even rewritten.”
  • “It seems as if everything is overpriced, pushing African American residents out to Pinellas Park and other areas.”
  • “Growth does not mean a city has to accept moral bankruptcy. Community engagement does not mean one or two festivals a year or hiring people who are willing to try but not qualified.”
  • “I would probably move back if I could afford to live there. Beautiful city!”
  • “I no longer care.”
  • “I love St. Petersburg, Florida.”

To participate in the survey, visit the website here.

View the full report here.



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  1. Avatar

    Ron Ogden

    January 12, 2024at6:46 am

    even for the young, moving is a difficult prospect. When you have that many of a specific group of citizens “voting with their feet”, politicians need to pay attention, even if that means foregoing the pleasures of building new towers for the rich and negotiating pie-in-the-sky baseball deals.

  2. Avatar


    January 10, 2024at7:09 pm

    Bottom line: It’s getting too expensive and people on budgets can’t afford housing after the rent doubles when the lease runs out. Retirees on fixed income are in the same boat. There were two trailer park communities towards me. They were nice and been there 50 years or more. Now there building $750k townhouses and condos. I remember watching council meetings a decade ago watching the real estate council members drool about the “improved tax base”. Sad.

  3. Avatar


    January 10, 2024at6:07 pm

    I sympathize with blacks from up north who feel unwelcome on the south side. The community seems very entitled and many people from there seem to have a chip on their shoulder. One of the worst things about this city.

  4. Avatar

    John N Pinder

    January 10, 2024at4:05 pm

    Rent is definitely high too high in the building all these high-rises one bedrooms are so high how the average person going to be able to get a nice apartment or house that’s gentrification cuz they know the lower class black and white can’t afford I’m leaving St Pete myself out of here

  5. Avatar


    January 10, 2024at1:39 pm

    St.Pete is overcrowded and expensive as it is in every popular city. There are other places in Florida that are less crowded and prices are not insane.

  6. Avatar

    steve sullivan

    January 10, 2024at12:50 pm

    Sam Damian, your language defines you and your perspective on the black community. You need to be asking yourself whether that black person truly considers you a friend. And show them your post after you ask them that and see if you that relationship continues. Lakewood estates has always had black residents. And, we dont call people “hood blacks.” What does that even mean? Either you are a good citizen or you’re not.

  7. Avatar

    Marcus Williams

    January 9, 2024at10:01 pm

    This is exactly what St Pete officials want. T gentrification continues. So sad.

  8. Avatar

    Marvin Mitchell

    January 9, 2024at9:59 pm

    I was born and raised in south St. Petersburg in the 80s and 90s. South St. Pete is the roughest and poorest area of the city. And of course, it’s 99% black. I moved from the southside when I was 18 when I went to college and had no desire to return back to St. Petersburg. I’m 38 now an I’ve been back to St. Petersburg to visit over the years and I could clearly see the gentrification process taking place right before my eyes. It was apparent that there was a systematic plan to push poor and lower class people out of the city. The rich and wealthy are getting richer and the poor, black areas still look like slums with high crime rate, drugs and violence. Any black person who wants to be safe and successful will leave as soon as they get an opportunity. St. Petersburg is an amazing city, but when you go south of Central Avenue, it’s a totally different world. There isn’t a true sense of community or unity on the southside. It’s everyone for themselves and if you appear to be successful, someone will try to tear you down or take what you have. With that being said, I still love St. Petersburg, the city where I was born and raised but I refuse to live there as a black man.

  9. Avatar

    Sam Damian

    January 9, 2024at8:06 pm

    I have a very good black friend that was forced to move out of the Lakewood estates area because the hood blacks from the Southside have ruined the neighborhood and he can’t afford to buy a house on the Northside of St Petersburg. To be clear he blames the thugs for ruining his neighborhood,

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