In this 2016 photo, graffiti is written on the side of a mobile home at the Little Farm Trailer Park in El Portal, Florida. In a city known for its luxurious and glitzy condo towers, it’s hard to find affordable rental housing. AP Photo / Lynne Sladky


For the first time in years, Florida lawmakers fully funded the Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund in 2020 to the tune of $ 387 million.

The Sadowski Fund, established in 1992 to take advantage of private / federal funding for affordable workforce housing, imposes a 20-cent surtax for every $ 100 paid on real estate transactions.

During the real estate boom of the 2000s, lawmakers began to divert millions from the fund for other purposes. A 2018 Senate Community Affairs Committee analysis determined since 2001, lawmakers had “swept” $ 2 billion from the fund to fill budget holes.

In 2018, Sadowski’s money funded the $ 400 million response to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. In 2019, lawmakers invested $ 125 million of the fund’s $ 332 million in general funds and $ 115 million in Hurricane Michael recovery.

After fully funding affordable housing in 2020, when lawmakers gathered for the 2021 session, Governor Ron DeSantis wanted to do it again with the $ 423 million Sadowski was due to generate.

But Speaker of the House Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, and Speaker of the Senate Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, had different ideas.

As the state battles sea level rise that could consume about 300,000 Florida homes – and their assessed value of $ 145 billion – by 2050, Simpson and Sprowls have asked budget writers to “Sweep” around $ 280 million in flood and wastewater control infrastructure.

Under the now part of the $ 100 billion state budget plan for fiscal year 2022 (FY22), which went into effect on July 1, Sadowski’s income is split into thirds of around $ 141 million. dollars each to fight flooding caused by rising sea levels, provide subsidies for wastewater infrastructure. and affordable housing.

Sadowski’s continued “sweeps” of money have long spurred the angst and anger of housing advocates to no avail, but this year’s sweep – and the potential decision to permanently split his proceeds into three allocations – sparked the Wrath of Florida Realtors, the state’s largest trade association representing more than 200,000 members.

In March, Florida Realtors formed a political committee to sponsor a potential voting measure in 2022 to pass a constitutional amendment to ban the practice.

This proposed amendment, “Affordable Housing – Protects affordable housing funds from non-housing useWas filed with the State Elections Division (DOE) on June 11.

“Year after year, Florida Realtors have advocated for affordable housing, asking the legislature not to use the money from the doc stamp for any other purpose,” writes Kerry Smith on a Florida Realtors’ Web page before noting what lawmakers did in the 2021 session “brought the problem to a breaking point.”

Floridians For Housing raised more than $ 13 million, including $ 8 million in June. Everything but the National Association of Realtors’ $ 3 million comes from Florida Realtors.

Floridians for Housing – and other petition sponsors – were raising money before a new law capping contributions to signature-gathering petition campaigns took effect on July 1.

However, a federal judge has blocked Senate bill 1890 to be enacted, granting the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida’s petition for a temporary injunction until its federal lawsuit is heard.

SB 1890 caps donations to committees supporting proposed constitutional amendments at $ 3,000 until 222,898 validated voters sign the petition for mandatory Supreme Court review.

Thereafter, no cap applies to attempt to obtain the 891,589 signatures necessary to qualify for the ballot. To be adopted, the measure must collect 60% of the votes.

“Getting a constitutional amendment to the ballot and having it passed by voters is a difficult task that will require considerable resources, time and the participation of all of our members – but we have the resources and the passion,” said Florida Realtors president Cheryl Lambert.


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