With SB 2512 having passed in the Florida Senate with a newly adopted amendment, and its companion bill HB 5401 going to a third reading in the House chamber, interested parties still have funding concerns over these two measures. In the new amendment to the Senate bill, allocation of housing funds would be split in half with a permanent 50% going to housing and the remaining 50% going to other purposes like environmental issues.
In other words, money allocated for statewide affordable housing will be permanently slashed in half.
These Affordable Housing Trust Funds that have been targeted by legislators were designed to help Floridians achieve stable and affordable housing, whereas these environmental projects largely benefit those who already have a home.
How would this reduction in housing funds affect everyday Floridians?
The deep cut would make it more difficult for senior citizens on fixed incomes, veterans, and low-income families to be able to find housing due to a real estate market that continues to show home prices on the rise, a steep Florida’s overall population growth, and a low housing inventories.
But do Florida lawmakers led by Speaker Chris Sprowls (R) and Senate President Wilton Simpson (R) really have to raid trusts that were created solely to fund affordable housing?
This move to relocate money away from affordable housing is not a novel idea. Actually, for over a decade, lawmakers have moved all or part of the funds allocated to housing funding away from housing programs, which has led to Floridians losing billions of dollars in housing dollars.
Lawmakers have been looking for places to pull cash out to help balance the state budget, which has been facing a $2 billion COVID-related deficit, so it was somewhat understandable that they would need to dip into trust funds like the Sadowski fund.
But with the new budgetary forecast released earlier this week showing that the $2 billion budget shortfall would only be $826 million, is there a chance that Sprowls and the company look elsewhere to plug their budget hole?
If you couple this good news with economic forecasts that show that the state will probably have a $3.5 billion surplus by July 1, 2021, Simpson and Sprowls could find the money they need somewhere else and not have to make the permanent 50% cut to housing dollars, or any cut for that matter.
But wait, with the Biden administration having authorized a trillion-dollar COVID relief package, could legislators use those funds appropriated to Florida to plug all of their budgetary holes and not have to touch the housing trust funds?
Florida Realtors, who support the Sadowski and other housing trust funds, and while expressing support for the new amendment, the group would like to see more of the appropriated affordable housing funds be used exclusively for housing even though they still have hold deep reservations with the permanent nature of the housing cut.