Housing crisis

How Lawmakers Contributed to Florida’s Affordable Housing Crisis

Unlike affordable housing options right now, there is no shortage of stories of struggle in Florida.

Across the state, people are seeing homes and rentals sold. The crisis forced 62-year-old Vernita McCaskill to stay at a hotel in Tampa for a month and a half.

“I don’t see how to get out of it at the moment. You don’t know what to do on a daily basis, ”she told us recently.

McCaskill is now behind on his hotel payments and fears the streets are next.

“I’m terrified. I’ve never been in this situation at all,” she said.

Florida’s affordable housing crisis has gotten so bad that cities are redirecting money to help residents. In Miami-Dade, the mayor recently declared a state of emergency due to its “affordability crisis.”

But the reason housing in the Sunshine State has gone from cheap to extravagantly disconnected goes beyond rising inflation, sluggish incomes and rising demand.

Some may be directed to raids on a state trust fund. Called the Sadowski Fund, it became Florida law in 1992 as a dedicated annual revenue stream to grow affordable housing projects across the state.

Financed by stamp duties on real estate transactions, the Sadowski comprises two trust funds. 70% of the money from the Sadowski fund goes to local housing assistance known as SHIP and the remaining 30% goes to a public housing trust fund known as SAIL. SHIP helps landlords with down payment, repairs or preservation and rental assistance while SAIL reaches out to developers to help build more affordable housing.

But during the housing boom of 2002, under Governor Jeb Bush, the legislature began plundering the trust fund for other projects. Many of these projects had nothing to do with housing.

But raids by the Sadowski fund continued, said Jaimie Ross, CEO of the Florida Housing Coalition.

“It’s become kind of a habit for the Legislature to take a whole bunch of trust funds from Sadowski and sweep them into general revenue,” she said.

Ross has spent years leading campaigns to stop the “Sadowski sweeps” of the legislature.

“So the fact that this fund was looted for two decades helped put us in this crisis, journalist Katie LaGrone asked.

“It’s true, it’s true,” Ross said. “To be frank, that’s over $2 billion,” she explained.

In fact, Ross explained that it was well over $2 billion since every dollar in the fund is leveraged 6 to 1.

After years of such sweeps, last year lawmakers finally passed a bill to stop the raids. And last month they agreed to put all of Sadowski’s money towards his goal, affordable housing. The trust fund is now worth more than $362 million. But everything comes a little too late.

“We’re very far behind,” Ross said. “To a large extent, these many years of mopping up have really hurt the production of affordable housing and the preservation of Florida,” she said.

With demand for high-end housing still strong, Ross said, catching up now poses new challenges, as developers are more likely to build where they can make the most profit, i.e. in housing. high end luxury.

“You can’t blame them for that,” she said.

As a result, Ross believes solving the state’s current housing crisis requires more affordable housing developers and more incentives to attract them, including cash, tax credits and new creative partnerships. .

It’s all on the table as Floridians continue to struggle as the government’s scramble to help them comes years too late.

“The Sadowski Trust Fund sweep year after year has really hurt our ability to meet housing needs in Florida,” Ross said.

Last month, the Legislature also agreed to pour $100 million into a newly created program known as the “Hometown Heroes” housing program. Although not yet implemented, it will help first responders, including teachers, with the down payment and closing costs.