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Lawmakers Bend a Little on Housing Trust Funds Issue

A proposal to cut 66% of Fla.’s housing trust funds led Florida Realtors to object and issue a Call for Action. Lawmakers have now changed their proposal to a 50% cut.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A proposal out of the Florida House and Senate drew a quick reaction from Florida Realtors® and other state housing advocates. As a result of that reaction, lawmakers offered a new proposal: Instead of taking 66% of the state’s housing trust funds and using it for other causes, it would take only 50%.

On Monday, lawmakers filed an amendment to one bill (SB 2512) to make the change. For the next fiscal year, that amendment would add another $60 million to affordable housing programs (for a total of about $200 million next year), though the amount would vary yearly depending on the amount of money collected for the trust fund.

House and Senate leaders say they reworked the proposed formula for the trust funds after pushback from advocates. And while it promises more going forward for workforce housing than the Florida Legislature’s first proposal, it isn’t what the state’s Realtors want. Katie Betta, a spokeswoman for Senate President Wilton Simpson, told Florida Politics that the amendment was changed based on “feedback from affordable housing advocates and senators.”

The proposed change came a day after Florida Realtors issued a Call for Action on Monday – a request for all members to contact their personal representatives in the Legislature and state their objections to the proposal.

The trust funds – commonly called the Sadowski trust funds – have not always gone toward affordable housing programs, notably in lean budget years when the Florida Legislature would “sweep” money into general revenue and use it for other purposes. However, the original proposal would have been a permanent reduction by two-thirds, at a time when the state is already struggling with affordable housing issues. This proposed reduction to keep 50% for housing programs is a better deal, but Realtors have consistently advocated that all money collected in the affordable housing trust fund be used for housing.

Florida Realtors President Cheryl Lambert made the case for using 100% of the housing trust funds for housing in her Call for Action, saying “hundreds of thousands of Floridians – many of them teachers, firefighters, first responders and other essential workers – have utilized these funds to help purchase a home, beginning their journey of financial wellness.”

She called it “a priority for the elderly on fixed incomes. And it is a priority for hard-working Floridians looking to purchase their first home.”

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