Fla.’s House speaker and Senate president proposed a permanent two-thirds decrease in the state’s affordable housing trust funds. Florida Realtors immediately objected.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – In a surprise move, Florida House of Representatives Speaker Chris Sprowls and Senate President Wilton Simpson announced a funding change with a major impact on the state’s affordable housing trust funds, commonly called the Sadowski Trust Funds.

Documentary stamp taxes (doc stamps) roll into the Sadowski Funds, essentially allowing state home sales to help at-risk families find a place to live. Under the latest proposal, however, Sprowls and Simpson suggest that only one-third of the collected doc stamp money go toward affordable housing.

Simpson calls it “modernizing” doc stamp distribution “to dedicate a steady stream of funding in three key areas of infrastructure – affordable housing, wastewater and mitigating sea-level rise.”

“In what might seem like an obvious statement, Florida’s affordable housing trust funds are for affordable housing,” says Florida Realtors® 2021 President Cheryl Lambert. “Realtors from across Florida worked with the state 30 years ago to create this long-term, stable form of funding for workforce housing. Realtors fight to keep homeownership affordable and attainable, but in this case, we agreed that the housing industry should help support workforce housing for Floridians who need a little extra help.”

According to Lambert, the proposed trust fund update “changes the terms of our original agreement.”

Under the three-part plan, the Sadowski Trust Funds would receive one-third of the doc stamp money, with a new guarantee that the Florida Legislature would not “sweep” any of the money into the general fund to use for other purposes.

Another third of the money would go to “Always Ready: Flooding and Sea Level Rise Agenda,” a change advocated by Sprowls and House members to fight climate change. The final third would go to the Wastewater Grant Program within the Department of Environmental Protection, a priority of Simpson.

Advocating for the housing trust funds

On Thursday, three Florida Realtors representatives – Florida Realtors 2021 President-Elect Christina Pappas, 2021 Florida Realtors Secretary Tim Weisheyer and Florida Realtors CEO Margy Grant – traveled to Tallahassee to testify before the House Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee, the first to consider Sprowls’ and Simpson’s proposal.

“Nearly 30 years ago, when the Sadowski Act was passed creating the State and Local Government Housing Trust Funds, Realtors were at the table during those conversations,” Pappas testified. “It was a lengthy and comprehensive process that sought input from numerous stakeholders, and Realtors were proud to provide input and ultimately support the decision to establish the housing trust funds.”

Pappas said “compromises were made in how trust fund dollars should be spent” via the State Housing Initiatives Partnership program (SHIP) and the State Apartment Incentive Loan Program (SAIL): SHIP funds would receive 65% each year as a dedicated source of money for homeownership activities such as down payment and closing cost assistance. SAIL funds would receive 35% of the trust fund allocations to aid the construction of affordable rental units for low-income families.

“We appreciate the intentions behind this proposal, but have significant concerns over the permanent nature of these changes,” Pappas concluded. Florida Realtors “will be standing in opposition of the bill today.”

© 2021 Florida Realtors®

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Author: marlam