Housing News Network, February 2016

Vol. 32, No. 1

From the Editor

Florida lawmakers have a terrific opportunity to keep the economy on an upward trajectory. The investment of housing trust fund monies into homes for hard working Floridians has given Florida the boost it needed to get through the housing recession after the federal neighborhood stabilization funds came to an end. Florida is growing again. As people move to Florida, the real estate market recovers, and more people are able to become first time home owners or apartment residents, Florida’s economy grows. Everyone needs a home. A home comes from the full continuum of housing opportunities, from modest apartments for rent at affordable prices to modest homes to purchase at an affordable price.

We need to rapidly rehouse Florida’s chronic homeless population and we need to preserve and develop apartments that are affordable for our most vulnerable extremely low income populations, many of whom are living on social security, or disability income. Florida has become the nation’s toughest state for renters. According to the recently-released “Make Room” report by Enterprise Community Partners, Florida has the largest share of renters — 31 percent — who spend more than half of their income on housing. According to the 2016 Florida Home Matters Report, 951,000 very low-income households, including hardworking families, the elderly, veterans and disabled Floridians living on fixed incomes, are forced to spend more than 50 percent of their income on housing. They are essentially one missed paycheck or one unexpected crisis away from homelessness. Florida also has the nation’s third-largest homeless population. This is all very bad news.

But, Florida has some very good news. Florida has the Sadowski State and Local Housing Trust Funds, a dedicated revenue source which funds affordable housing programs and is the envy of the nation. The housing market is again heating up. With the increase in housing prices, comes an increase in the amount of money available for appropriation for Florida’s housing programs. The Florida Legislature has the opportunity to appropriate nearly $324 million in the state and local housing trust funds during this 2016 Legislative Session. The appropriation of the nearly $324 million in the state and local housing trust funds in Fiscal Year 2016-17 into Florida’s affordable housing programs will create more than 32,000 jobs and more than $4.6 billion in positive economic impact in Florida. Florida’s housing programs at the state and the community levels are first-rate. SHIP, the local housing trust fund, has a proven track record for flexibility and accountability, responding to local needs while adhering to statutory parameters and reporting requirements. SHIP is available in all 67 counties and in larger cities, so that all income-eligible Floridians, from those living on fixed incomes to those of moderate means, have access to programs that provide responsible housing assistance. Florida has the best model for funding and producing affordable housing in the nation.

The Florida Legislature has the opportunity to make the most of that now. It’s time to use Florida’s housing trust funds for the benefit of Floridians in need of a home, including hardworking families, the elderly, veterans, and disabled Floridians living on fixed incomes. Florida cannot afford to miss this opportunity. Home matters.