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Tampa Explained- What’s the Deal with Unincorporated Areas?

Builders division

What’s the difference between the city of Tampa and the surrounding areas that have Tampa addresses but aren’t actually in Tampa?

Wait what did you just say? Ya we understand it’s all confusing, so let’s address some of this confusion in order to give clarity if you are considering moving or living in the Tampa area.

If you have any questions while reading, we are licensed Realtors in the state of Florida and would love to help you with any questions or concerns you may have!

Phone # (727) 677-5337


City of Tampa on the map

The strange shape on the left is the city of Tampa proper, the image on the right is the greater Tampa area. You may be thinking, wait what about the spaces that aren’t other cities but also are not in that strange shape? Those my friend, are unincorporated areas of Hillsborough county that have Tampa Addresses.

Let me explain what this means, by starting with some background info.

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In the early 1800’s, the county of Hillsborough was founded. This Country was very large, stretching all the way to the gulf.

When it was founded, the area focused on was modern day South Tampa.

As boundaries began to be set for the city of Tampa, not everyone lived in those boundaries. Some people wanted to live outside of those boundaries, where there was more land and more potential for farming and ranching.

Now here we are many years later, trying to make sense of this metro area of three million people.

One of the really confusing parts about this is that areas outside of the city of Tampa, many of these unincorporated areas of Hillsborough county, often still have Tampa addresses.

Whenever I call these areas “part of Tampa” or “an area of Tampa”,people tend to chime in saying it’s not. Many locals refer to an area by the name of the neighborhood. For example, Carollwood, a neighborhood in Tampa, is not referred to as an area of Tampa but as Carrollwood Village.

It is confusing when you are considering moving to this area because the homes will still have Tampa addresses. These differences are seemingly obvious to those who have called this area their homes for years but for those of us that are new to the area, it may take some time to get used to the layout and names of these areas.

There are even maps that give a visual of all of the cities within Tampa (yellow) and all of the unincorporated areas around them (white). This really highlights the surprising amount of unincorporated areas, especially in Hillsborough county.

When you get into Pinellas county it gets a bit more incorporated as cities grabbed land, but there are still pockets of Pinellas county (palm harbor for example) that are not incorporated.

Many people ask, why not incorporate all of these unincorporated areas into the city?

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The reasoning behind a lot of the unincorporated areas was the result of a big conflict in 1998 with the annexation of New Tampa. The developers of New Tampa, a big master plan community, wanted the city to take on this area as part of the city instead of part of the county.This was because the taxes for the city are higher and would help to offset new infrastructure.But the people in this area fought this tooth and nail because they didn’t want their property and sales taxes to increase. Eventually the big corporation won and this area was annexed into the city of Tampa at the end of 1998.So long story short, the reason is taxes. No one wants to pay more taxes.

The residents of these unincorporated areas are functioning perfectly well as a part of the county, but not the city of Tampa. Although changing that would make the geography less confusing for newcomers, it would be detrimental to those living and working in these areas.

Does it Matter?

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The real answer is no.You don’t need to understand the nuances. Locals will relate how much they care or how much they don’t care about your correct usage of the area’s terminology, and you will pick up the details over the years of residing in the Tampa area.

Which to Choose?

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The question remains, which should you choose? The city of Tampa or one of the many unincorporated parts of Hillsborough county? The reality is, it doesn’t matter that much. The unincorporated areas are going to be a little less regulated and taxes are going to be a little bit cheaper. But if you’re moving from an area that is more expensive, the shock of living in the city, and the price tag that comes with it, isn’t going to be as noticable.One thing is for sure, It’s clear based on conversations online that the residents of these unincorporated areas do not want to become incorporated into part of the city. They do not want to be managed by the city government, and would rather continue to be managed by the county.Maybe this is just the Florida nature of not wanting to be regulated, which is a common posture you will see in this area. On average there is more of a libertarian mindset of not wanting to be told what to do, or ‘live and let live’.

As much as the facts about these unincorporated areas make them come across as being very rural, they really are not. They are still very suburban and city-like. The unincorporated areas such as Carrollwood, Westchase, and Citrus park, feel like part of the city of Tampa, they definitely do not feel like they are on the outskirts.


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The primary differences between the city of Tampa and the unincorporated areas of Hillsborough county are taxes.Property taxes are mostly paid to the county, even if you live in the city of Tampa, your property taxes are managed by the county. When living in the city your tax rate is a little higher, because some of those property taxes are paying for very specific, city related things.I hope this gives you some insight and clarity in helping you make a decision on your move or home buying process within Tampa Florida. As always, please feel free to reach out with any questions you may have!Phone # (727) 677-5337


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