Realtor leaders also traveled to Tallahassee Wednesday to testify before state lawmakers on the critical need for maximum funding of Fla.’s housing trust funds, urging them to vote no on House Bill 5401 and its companion bill, Senate Proposed Bill 2512.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida Realtors® has launched a comprehensive education and advocacy effort centered on the urgent need to allocate the maximum amount of funding available in the State and Local Government Housing Trust Funds for affordable housing projects.
The effort is a result of recent legislative proposals that would permanently reduce the amount of funding available for affordable housing by more than 66%. House Bill 5401 and its Senate companion, Senate Proposed Bill 2512, would divert two-thirds of the funding available in the housing trust funds for use in environmental infrastructure projects, leaving only a third available for the state’s considerable affordable housing needs.
On March 31, HB 5401 was heard in the House Appropriations Committee while SPB 2512 was heard in its first committee, the Senate Appropriations Committee. Several leaders for Florida Realtors and the real estate industry traveled to Tallahassee to speak out against these bills and testify to the critical need to preserve the maximum amount for Florida’s housing trust funds during Wednesday’s committee hearings. Speaking against the bills were Florida Realtors President-Elect Christina Pappas; Mike Artelli, current chair of the Public Policy Committee; Marilyn Pearson-Adams, current chair of the Legislative Think Tank; and Natalie Arrowsmith, current president of the Orlando Regional Realtor® Association. Florida Realtors CEO Margy Grant also was part of the group.
Speaking to legislators, President-Elect Christina Pappas said, “Since the beginning of the trust funds, the SHIP program has helped over 217,000 households achieve the dream of homeownership with down payment and closing cost assistance. These households help contribute to the state’s economy and it is important to remember that for every two homes sold, one job is created.
“Included in that number are many essential workers such as first-responders, teachers and nurses who have been monumentally important in helping our society through this pandemic. The housing trust funds are there to help them achieve the dream of homeownership and begin their journey of financial wellness for the rest of their lives.
“We appreciate that this bill ensures that the housing portion cannot be used for other purposes. But permanently reducing the funding by 66% is going to significantly diminish the ability to achieve the goals of assisting families with homeownership. … We ask you to use the housing trust funds for housing.”
In his testimony, Mike Artelli said that while the goals behind the bills are rooted in good intentions – and Florida Realtors understands and supports the need for infrastructure funding –affordable housing is vital for the “continued growth and prosperity of Florida.”
“Permanently reducing the amount of money available for affordable housing each year by more than 66% is way too drastic, especially given the volatile times we find ourselves in,” he said. “We appreciate the good intentions behind this proposal, but we have significant concerns over the permanent nature of these changes. Please help Floridians achieve the dream of homeownership using the housing trust funds for housing.”
Realtors® have long supported affordable housing efforts and continue to strongly advocate for the housing trust funds, which so many Floridians desperately need, according to Florida Realtors President Cheryl Lambert.
“Nearly 30 years ago, Realtors worked with members of the Legislature to place a new tax on our industry that would help create a dedicated funding source for Florida’s growing affordable housing needs,” she said. “We did this because we saw the escalating problem and we wanted to be part of the solution. The issue has only intensified as our population has grown, and diverting hundreds of millions of dollars away from these critical programs will make the situation worse.”
Monies for the housing trust funds come from a portion of the documentary stamp taxes charged on every real estate transaction. In 1992, Realtors advocated for this tax – 10 cents per $100 of value – with the expectation that all funds collected went to housing programs. However, for more than a decade, the Legislature has diverted all or a large portion of those funds each year to other budget priorities.
Lambert said, “Hard-working Floridians like teachers, firefighters, nurses and other essential workers consistently rely on these funds to secure stable housing and achieve the American dream of homeownership. Permanently reducing the amount of funds available to help them, especially given the turbulent times we find ourselves in, only hurts those who have been helping us the most during this unprecedented pandemic.”
As part of the newly launched effort, Florida Realtors is reaching out to members to educate them on the importance of Florida’s affordable housing trust funds and ask for their help in urging lawmakers to vote NO on HB 5401 and SPB 2512.
For more information on the campaign, go to affordablehousingfl.org.
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