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From The Editor
Some people love the excitement of a roller coaster; others tend to get nauseous.
Repeal of the cap on the state and local housing trust funds is the overarching success of the 2011 session. Representative Gary Aubuchon and Senator Mike Bennett were pivotal to this enormous legislative accomplishment. And the enormity of this win can not be overstated. The Sadowski Act has now been restored to operate as intended; the documentary stamp monies dedicated to affordable housing will flow into the state and local housing trust funds unfettered by an arbitrary cap. See the Legislative Wrap-Up on pages 4-9 for details.
But the 2011 session was not a smooth ride. Just one week prior to the end of session, the Senate and House had each passed bills that would permanently redirect all monies dedicated for the Housing Trust Funds to other places. In other words, we faced the evisceration of Florida’s landmark Sadowski Act. Fortunately, the House and Senate proposals were not identical, which enabled us to narrowly avoid the entire redirect and destruction of the trust funds. But on the very last day of session an agreement was reached between the House and Senate to permanently redirect only $75 million from the state and local housing trust funds to the newly created State Enhancement Economic Development (SEED) trust fund, beginning next year.
The Sadowski Education Effort for 2011 began with a strong push for using the Sadowski trust funds for housing. The estimated $194 million available for appropriation from the state and local housing trust funds would have created approximately 15,000 jobs and over $1.4 billion in economic activity. That should have given us a particularly strong position since the political priority at the Capitol was jobs creation. Using housing funds for housing would put the out of work contractors back to work rehabilitating foreclosed homes and moving existing inventory to give a much needed boost to Florida’s real estate and related retail markets. Housing trust fund money could have been used to create jobs or it could have been used to fill budget holes. At the end of the ride, the legislature chose to sweep the housing trust funds into general revenue for fiscal year 2011-12; a move that helped the legislature to meet its immediate need to fill budget holes and pass a balanced budget.
Our challenge now is to persuade the legislature that it should use housing trust fund monies to create jobs and provide housing rather than to fill budget holes. So long as tax loop holes remain open and so long as tax cuts continue to be a political or ideological driver, we can expect budget deficits for at least the near future. Will the legislature continue to use the housing trust fund monies to fill those deficit holes or will it use housing trust fund monies to help struggling Floridians keep roofs over their heads and create jobs for the existing out of work construction and construction-related industries? Can we do anything to persuade the legislature to use housing money for housing? Addressing this question of politics, policy, and economics will be the focus of the public policy plenary at the Florida Housing Coalition’s statewide annual conference in September.
And that’s just the beginning of what promises to be three days of training in a celebratory framework.
Florida housing professionals have much to celebrate-in addition to finally repealing the cap on the state and local housing trust funds, we have $1 billion in federal Hardest Hit funds to help Floridian’s keep their homes; we have preservation success stories to showcase; we have best practices for Green Housing and the Neighborhood Stabilization Program to share; and we have significant successes to highlight in building the capacity of nonprofits, including the development of the Florida Nonprofit Housing Advocates Network.
Yes, the 2011 session had steep inclines, crazy loops, and plunging falls. But in the end, housing advocates have much to celebrate. The Florida Housing Coalition is dedicated to providing the training and technical assistance needed to keep everyone securely on track.
– JAIMIE ROSS is the President of the Florida Housing Coalition and the Affordable Housing Director at 1000 Friends of Florida.