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Housing Trust Fund’s Future Unclear in Florida House

The governor supports using all trust fund money for affordable housing, and bills in the House and Senate would make it official. But full funding isn’t a sure thing.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – After getting a brief overview of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ proposed $91.4 billion spending plan this week to fully fund the state’s affordable housing trust fund, nicknamed the Sadowski Trust Fund, Florida House Appropriations Chairman Travis Cummings said he anticipates some money may need to be taken from affordable-housing trust funds, a process called “sweeping.”

“I think sweeping is a possibility due to some really unmet needs out there, whether it’s with children and some of our most vulnerable,” Cummings, R-Fleming Island, said. “Not to say housing is not very important, but we’ve got people in the state who struggle, obviously, whether it be with healthcare or whether it be with the education system.”

In the past, legislators have frequently used the housing tax dollars, which are collected through doc-stamp taxes on real estate sales, on non-housing programs to balance the state budget.

With $387 million expected to be available for affordable housing, DeSantis’ proposed budget didn’t call for any money to be swept, to the delight of affordable housing advocates.

The Sadowski Housing Coalition, whose members include Florida Realtors, the Florida Coalition for the Homeless, Habitat for Humanity, Florida Chamber of Commerce and others, asked legislators to follow DeSantis’ lead last Monday.

Legislation has also been filed to protect affordable-housing trust fund money (SB 306 and HB 381) by making it tougher for lawmakers to use the cash for other purposes.

Florida Housing Coalition President Jaimie Ross said the proposed legislation would still give lawmakers access to the funds during a true crisis.

“We know the Legislature could use the trust funds, if needed, in an emergency. But they wouldn’t be the go-to,” Ross said.

Cummings called the legislation “irresponsible,” that would “tie future legislators’ hands.”

Source: News Service of Florida, Ana Ceballos, Dara Kam, Tom Urban, Jim Turner