Will Florida fully fund housing programs? Lawmakers have embezzled billions in the past – NBC 6 South Florida

South Florida has become unaffordable for many as rental prices rise 30% in some communities.

It depends on supply and demand. There is not enough supply of affordable apartments and homes at a time when new people are rushing to move to South Florida.

Lawyers told NBC 6 that thousands of units over the past two decades could have been built if state lawmakers hadn’t diverted billions earmarked for affordable housing projects.

Struggling to keep up

NBC 6 met Lourdes Bombalier in her neighborhood of Kendall.

Although she retired years ago, she teaches English part-time to meet the cost of living. The following year, her landlord increased her rent from $135 per month to $1,400 per month.

“I have to work just to earn a living, not even to save,” Bombalier said. “What happens in a few years when I can’t work anymore, I’m going to be homeless.”

She thinks lawmakers should do more to control rent prices and expand affordable housing.

“You know, I’m 71 years old. I shouldn’t be in this predicament. But no one should. I’m not the only one. That’s the problem,” Bombalier said.

Dozens of others shared similar stories with NBC 6 investigators via an online survey. You can participate here.

Miami’s Alex told NBC 6 his rent had gone up from $2,000 to $3,500 a month, writing “prices not reasonable with wages.”

Michelle, from Hallandale Beach, told us her rent was going up $250 a month, writing, “Florida is getting unaffordable.”

housing funds

In 1992, a coalition of organizations convinced lawmakers to pass the William Sadowski Affordable Housing Act, which increased stamp duty on real estate transactions and transfers to be paid to build affordable housing and help people stay home.

Most of the money goes to two programs. The State Apartment Incentive Loan Program, or SAIL, helps developers build affordable apartments for rent. The State Housing Initiatives Partnership Program, or SHIP, is filtered by local governments and can be used on a variety of projects such as new affordable units, help with down payments, rent or repair of houses when the owners cannot afford to do so.

According to an analysis by the Florida Housing Coalition, beginning in 2002, the Florida Legislature began diverting a third of the money collected, about $2.3 billion, and transferring it to the general revenue fund to pay other budget items. This practice has continued over the years, especially after the 2008 financial crisis.

In the 2021 legislative session, state lawmakers formally amended state law to transfer half of the stamp duty increase into funds for sea-level rise projects. and water management.

This year, Governor Ron DeSantis and the Florida Senate are fully funding what remains of the programs. But the Florida House budget is tens of millions of dollars less.

According to budget documents, the governor has proposed $355 million to fully fund the programs. The Senate budget framers want about $340 million. However, Florida House budget writers proposed a cut of $268 million.

A housing crisis

Jaimie Ross, president and CEO of the Florida Housing Coalition, helped launch the two major housing trust funds in the 1990s.

She told NBC that 6 years of insufficient funding for the program helped create the current housing crisis.

“It’s inexplicable,” Ross said. “There are many, many lost units. So we scramble. We are really struggling.

If lawmakers don’t fully fund what’s left of housing trust funds, there will be less money to build new homes and repair old ones, leaving people like Bombalier with fewer options.

“I have been trying to access affordable housing since April 2020,” Bombalier said. “It is very frustrating.”

NBC 6 has repeatedly reached out to House Speaker Chris Sprows, R-Palm Harbor, and Appropriations Committee Chairman Jay Trumbull, R-Panama City, to ask why their budget doesn’t fully fund housing trust funds. . We haven’t had a response yet.

DeSantis’ budget proposals fully funded the housing trust funds each year, and last session he vetoed a further attempt to embezzle another $40 million.

House and Senate lawmakers will begin settling the differences in their budgets next week. The legislative session ends on March 11.

The office of Florida Senate Speaker Wilton Simpson told NBC 6 that his position was reflected in his chamber’s budget proposal, which largely funds affordable housing programs.

Lawmakers are also debating whether to extend the homestead tax exemption to specific professions such as teachers, child protection workers, police, firefighters and the military in the hope of preventing them from being excluded from the housing market.

The Sadowski Coalition now includes more than 30 organizations, including the Associated Industries of Florida, the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the Florida Housing Coalition, and hopes Florida House lawmakers will increase the amount of money to match the proposals of the Senate or Governor.

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