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Coalition wants Fla. housing money used for housing


Florida Housing Coalition report

Home Matters: The 2014 Report from the Florida Housing Coalition provides an overview of affordable housing issues. It’s available online here.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Feb. 26, 2014 – The Sadowski Housing Coalition – a diverse group of more than 25 statewide organizations including Florida Realtors – met yesterday at Florida Realtors’ Tallahassee office. Speakers challenged the Florida Legislature to fully fund affordable housing programs this year; the money comes from doc stamp taxes under the Sadowski Act.

“Florida Realtors supported the Legislature’s increase in the documentary stamp tax in 1992 for the purpose of funding the state and local housing trust funds,” said Trey Price, public policy representative who spoke for Florida Realtors at the meeting. “We considered it a tax on our industry – but Realtors were willing to incur that tax if those monies would be used in support of housing.”

Even though doc stamp money is collected for the Sadowski Trust Fund, the Florida Legislature can choose to take that money out; and in recent lean-budget years, they’ve “swept” it into the state’s general revenue fund. The state agency at the end of the pipeline – the State Housing Initiatives Partnership (SHIP) – does not then receive enough money to help all the Floridians who need it.

“We’ve seen SHIP funds swept for many years when the state was in economic recession, and the Legislature looked everywhere for funds to balance the budget,” said Price. “But this year is different. There is no budget deficit, and we have an enormous need for workforce housing throughout the state.”

“Florida has the nation’s third-highest homeless population, including veterans and families with children,” said Jaimie Ross, president of the Florida Housing Coalition. “More than 900,000 low-income, hardworking families, elders and disabled Floridians living on fixed incomes pay more than 50 percent of their incomes for housing.”

Ross said affordable housing money isn’t simply the right thing to do – it also saves taxpayers money and increases revenue. “If the Florida Legislature uses the projected revenue in the state and local housing trust funds for affordable housing in fiscal year 2014-15, it will create more than 27,000 jobs – more than $3.4 billion in positive economic benefit,” she said.

A Gadsden County SHIP administrator talked about the challenges in her district.

“I cannot in good conscience keep accepting applications when I don’t have the SHIP funds,” said Phyllis Moore, Gadsden’s SHIP administrator. “I have applications that I’ve accepted since 2011 – close to 200 elderly and disabled families in need. The SHIP trust fund was set up for this purpose, and we need it now more than ever.”

Sen. Bill Montford (D-Tallahassee) agreed with Moore. “That is why we need to appropriate all of the housing trust fund monies for housing this fiscal year,” he said.

Help for the homeless

A portion of the Sadowski funds could also benefit Florida programs to help homeless families.

“Florida Realtors also supports funding for the homeless found in a 2014 bill, SB 1090, that the Florida Legislature will consider this year,” Price said.

SB 1090 and its House companion bill, HB 979, focus, in part, on “challenge grants,” where local governments or private organizations can apply for state help with housing services for the homeless. Senate bill sponsor Jack Latvala (R-Clearwater) has also said that funding is needed for support programs like job training and drug treatment – programs that provide a way out of homelessness.

© 2014 Florida Realtors®