Legislative Solution Seen As ‘Fastest Path’ to Address Housing Crisis
Florida Realtors: A new effort will offer homeownership opportunities for frontline workers and take the place of the Housing Funds for Housing ballot campaign.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida Realtors® announced that it is pursuing a legislative solution as the fastest way to address Florida’s affordable housing crisis, including new homeownership opportunities targeted at frontline workers. The decision was made following highly productive discussions with legislative leaders indicating strong support to address this crisis. This legislative relief will take the place of the Housing Funds for Housing ballot campaign.
Florida Realtors will be working with legislative leaders to protect existing programs that provide housing for low-income and vulnerable Floridians, and create a new homeownership program that provides down payment and closing cost assistance for nurses, law enforcement, firefighters and other frontline professionals.
“Floridians made it known through their broad public support for the ballot initiative that workforce housing affordability must be a top priority, and this has opened the door for positive discussions in the Capitol. The legislative leadership has committed to working with us to find significant, immediate solutions to Florida’s workforce housing crisis,” says Florida Realtors President Cheryl Lambert. “This crisis cannot wait. Every day, we hear about workers who are bearing the brunt of the pandemic who can’t afford a home. This approach will help bring homeownership within reach of Floridians much faster.”
Lambert says they will suspend their efforts to pursue a constitutional amendment, which would have taken much longer to provide relief to the average Floridian.
Florida Realtors will work cooperatively with the Florida Legislature and other stakeholders to increase opportunities for Floridians to own their own homes, while preserving programs for rental assistance. The organization will also advocate for new funding to support the proposed frontline worker homeownership program. The goal is to begin working with the Florida Legislature immediately to ensure these issues receive attention during the 2022 legislative session, which begins in January.
“Front-line workers are the absolute foundation of our communities, something that has been made even more apparent during this pandemic. They are putting their lives and health on the line every day to benefit those around them, yet Florida has no homeownership program in place to ensure that these heroes can live in the communities where they work,” says Florida Realtors CEO Margy Grant. “We’re pleased that legislative leaders recognize the importance of this issue and we look forward to working with them on meaningful solutions.”
Data analyzed by Florida Realtors shows that front-line workers are at a large disadvantage when it comes to home affordability. For example, EMTs and paramedics would need to earn $25,000 more a year to afford a median-priced home in the state. Similarly, nurses would need to make $15,000 more a year and firefighters $10,000 more a year to afford the same home. Pursuing a legislative approach would provide targeted assistance to these frontline workers more immediately than a ballot initiative.
“During the pandemic, when ‘home’ took on a whole new meaning, Realtors put forth unprecedented efforts to ensure that Floridians were given every opportunity for housing assistance. Advocacy comes in many forms – Florida Realtors believes that protecting funding for housing and creating new options for homeownership for our front-line workers is a top priority,” says Florida Realtors President-Elect Christina Pappas. “We are excited to work with the Legislature to advance new programs and improve existing ones to ensure that all Floridians, especially our front-line workers, have access to safe and attainable housing.”
State Sen. Kathleen Passidomo (R-Naples) said in a statement, “I have worked with the Florida Realtors all summer – and for more than a decade – to strengthen affordable housing opportunities in Florida. We agree that affordable housing is absolutely essential to our state – for our families, for our workforce and for our economy. We must ensure that the state’s investment in affordable housing is spent judiciously, and that our first responders, health care workers, teachers and other critical professions are able to benefit from the opportunities available. I look forward to continuing our work with the Realtors, property owners, affordable housing advocates and other key stakeholders across the state toward our shared mission of providing safe, accessible and affordable places for Floridians to live, work and raise a family."
President Lambert added, “We have a long, proud history of advocating for Florida’s housing trust funds, and we believe working with the Legislature is the best way to make sure the Sadowski Housing Trust Funds help the most people as quickly as possible. We are a member-driven organization, and it was our members who made it possible for us to secure this positive outcome.”
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