Housing News Network, July 2009

Vol. 25, No. 2

From the Editor

The omnibus housing bill for 2009 (HB 161 and SB 1042) was amended onto growth management legislation (SB 360). An article about the growth management portion of SB 360 authored by Charles Pattison, executive director of 1000 Friends of Florida, is on page 12.

The most substantive housing portions of that bill, such as the sensible property tax treatment for Community Land Trusts; the exemption from property taxes for nonprofits in the process of developing land for affordable housing; and the changes to the SHIP program, because of their importance to our membership, are treated separately within the Legislative Wrap-Up article, beginning on page 4.

While these are certainly positive aspects to the affordable housing portion of SB 360, there is a particularly pernicious provision in the Act that has the potential to undermine the ability of nonprofits to develop affordable housing in Florida. Tucked into the Florida Statute 420.507, Powers of the Florida Housing Finance Corporation, is a new statutory requirement (420.507 (47)) that provides a preference for developers and general contractors domiciled in Florida who have substantial experience in developing or building affordable housing through FHFC’s programs. This new statute provides that in evaluating whether a developer or general contractor has substantial experience, FHFC shall consider whether the developer or general contractor has completed at least five developments using funds either provided by or administered by FHFC.

Developing nonprofit capacity in Florida is a priority for the Florida Housing Coalition. Moreover, we are presently partnering with the Shimberg Center and the FHFC under a Windows of Opportunity Grant from the MacArthur Foundation to increase the capacity of nonprofits in Florida to preserve existing affordable housing (see article on page 17.)

The FHFC is required by this new section (47) of 420.507 to address this preference for Florida developers and contractors with substantial experience by rule. It is possible that rulemaking will soften the blow and it is also possible that a legal challenge will be brought in regard to the constitutionality of this statute. But if rulemaking or a constitutional challenge do not remedy this situation, most nonprofits will have to partner with for profits to develop affordable housing in Florida unless and until this statutory provision is repealed.

The top two priorities for the Florida Housing Coalition, the Sadowski Workforce Housing Coalition, and other affordable housing advocates throughout the state was repeal of the cap on the state and local housing trust funds and appropriation of housing monies for housing. We were not successful on either front, but great gratitude is owed to all of our members for valiant efforts. So many of you sent emails, made phone calls, and came to Tallahassee for the Housing Day Rally on April 15th. And many others helped by the work you do every day to provide quality rental housing, to help first time homebuyers, to repair the homes of the elderly, and to save people from homelessness. Florida has the best state housing programs in the nation, funded by a dedicated revenue source. We ran into a major roadblock with the Legislature in 2009. It may have been the recession; it may have been philosophical opposition to trust funds; it may have been a need for education, or a combination of all three. The reality is this: for the first time since the Sadowski trust fund programs were created in 1992, our tried and true SHIP, SAIL, and Catalyst Programs are not funded. The negative impact on Florida’s economy will be lessened by the substantial affordable housing investment being made by the federal government. But the federal infusion is temporary. It is our job to ensure that Florida reinvests in affordable housing starting in 2010.