Housing News Network, April 2012

Vol. 28, No. 1

From the Editor

The Florida Housing Coalition membership did a remarkable job with legislative outreach this session. We saw the direct benefit from our SHIP Roundtable at the 2011 conference. Advocates met with their local legislative delegations and reported outcomes to the Sadowski Coalition, and we used that information to follow up and make the pivotal connections in Tallahassee. Unfortunately the campaign results did not match the excellent effort.

It would appear that the desire to create jobs in the residential construction industry is not currently a priority among chief legislators and the Governor’s office. I stress currently because what finds favor at the Capitol is subject to change. Campaigns can sometimes take a great deal more time than advocates find justifiable. It is frustrating. And it is especially difficult for communities that have families waiting for assistance and have now had to suffer the loss of long time highly valued employees who were running their SHIP office. The stakes are high. One of the hallmarks of the Sadowski Act was that the SHIP program would be operating in all 67 counties. This meant that all communities in Florida could help residents even if they received no federal assistance. This meant that all communities in Florida would be well equipped to deploy emergency assistance in the event of hurricanes. With the diversion of SHIP funding to general revenue for several years in a row, that infrastructure is crumbling. But it is not too late.

There are members of both the House and Senate that have deep commitment to the fiscally conservative notion that housing trust fund monies should be used for no other purpose than housing. We need to support their efforts in the 2013 session. And most importantly, we have to increase the number of legislators who will prioritize and fight for using housing trust fund monies for housing. There is an important election next November. All members of the Florida House and Senate are running for office: this only happens once every 10 years. Housing advocates need to get involved now and over the summer, to educate the candidates and get their commitments to stand up for low income Floridians, and to use housing trust fund monies for housing and stop the practice of sweeping the housing trust funds into general revenue.

We need to do everything we can to have an informed electorate and to get out the vote. Our laws were changed in 2011 making it so hard for independent groups to register voters that the League of Women Voters will no longer register voters in Florida. Early voting was clipped and a voter’s change of address can now result in having to cast a provisional ballot. The National Low Income Housing Coalition has a “voterization” initiative. At the Florida Housing Coalition conference in September, 2012, we will have at least one workshop focusing on civic engagement and what a nonprofit organization’s role can and should be in the election process. We will also have sessions to help you with trust fund education.

The faster Florida’s housing market recovers the faster Florida’s economy recovers. Using housing trust fund dollars to move the foreclosed housing stock and rehabilitate abandoned homes would put workers who are now unemployed or underemployed back to work repairing and refurbishing existing housing stock. Investing in Florida’s existing real estate market will stabilize property values for the entire community; and support the businesses that supply construction related materials, as well as, all of Florida’s businesses that rely upon consumers having money to buy goods.

We continue to highlight the success of our members and partners in this Journal and through Member Updates. We encourage you to have your legislator and his or her aide visit the properties you have developed or preserved and meet some of their constituents whose lives have been so profoundly improved because of good housing. Do it now—before it gets too hot and people leave for summer vacation. Toot your horn and let us know how it goes. Thank you for all you are doing. It will be great to see everyone again next September; we will reenergize and continue the fight.