Florida has become the nation’s toughest state for renters, with California and New York trailing closely behind. 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.
In fact, according to the 2015 Florida Home Matters Report, more than 920,000 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 as well. Florida has the Sadowski State and Local Housing Trust Funds, a dedicated revenue source that helps 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 that sum into Florida’s affordable housing programs will create more than 32,000 jobs and more than $4.6 billion in positive economic growth 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.
The Sadowski Coalition is a collaboration of more than 30 diverse statewide organizations, including business interests, such as the Florida Chamber of Commerce; industry groups, such as the Florida Realtors and Florida Home Builders Association; faith-based organizations, such as Florida Catholic Conference, Habitat for Humanity of Florida and Florida Impact; advocates for the elderly and special needs populations, such as Florida AARP, LeadingAge Florida, Florida Arc, Florida United Way and Florida Legal Services. All those constituencies work together for a single purpose: to ask the Florida Legislature to use all the housing trust fund money for housing. That means no diversion or sweeping of that money for other purposes.
Florida has the best model for funding and producing affordable housing in the nation. The 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.
Jaimie Ross is the facilitator of the Sadowski Coalition and the president and CEO of the Florida Housing Coalition, a statewide nonprofit provider of affordable housing training and technical assistance. For more information, please visit SadowskiCoaltion.org. Column courtesy of Context Florida.