The Florida House and Senate have reworked their infrastructure funding plan to leave a greater share of affordable housing funds after pushback from advocates.
The plan came together after negotiations between the Governor’s Office, the Speaker, and the Senate President, sources familiar with the discussions told Florida Politics.
An amendment filed Monday afternoon to the Senate’s version of the deal (SB 2512) would add about $60 million to what lawmakers initially agreed to allocate for affordable housing for the coming fiscal year.
Legislative leadership had initially agreed to split a portion of documentary stamp tax revenue between affordable housing, combating sea level rise and providing wastewater grants. Initially, affordable housing would have received about $140 million for the coming fiscal year, but lawmakers are boosting that to about $200 million. The remaining portion of the $423.3 million from the documentary stamp tax would still go to environmental projects, just at a lesser value, expected around $111 million.
Over the last five years, the state has put about $160 million in documentary stamp tax dollars toward affordable housing, making the original $140 million amount one of the smallest disbursements for affordable housing in recent years — and on a recurring basis.
Katie Betta, a spokeswoman for Senate President Wilton Simpson, said the amendment comes after feedback from affordable housing advocates and senators.
The thrust of the plan, which Simpson and House Speaker Chris Sprowls announced last month, was to create a predictable fund for affordable housing, rising sea levels and wastewater. The Legislature would not be allowed to sweep affordable housing funds anymore under the deal, as they have done nearly every year since the 2008 Recession.
That central goal is reserved in the reworked formula.
Democrats and advocates said the initial deal was effectively one of the largest sweeps in the trust fund’s history.
Jaimie Ross, President and CEO of the Florida Housing Coalition, had been critical of Republican leadership’s initial infrastructure deal. But she lauded the new plan to increase funding.
“The statutory permanent stop to housing trust fund sweeps is a historic shift for the future of affordable housing in Florida,” she said in a statement to Florida Politics. “The leaders in both chambers — Senate President Wilton Simpson and House Speaker Chris Sprowls, along with the appropriations chairs — are to be commended for their dedication and support of all types of infrastructure that are critically needed in our state.”
The Legislature created the Sadowski trust fund in 1992 to create a steady stream of financial support for affordable housing in the State Housing Initiatives Partnership Program, known as SHIP, and the State Apartment Incentive Loan Program, known as SAIL. However, that fund almost never remains untouched.
Gov. Ron DeSantis has repeatedly requested the affordable housing trust funds remain fully funded, and he did so again this year.
“Today’s movement, along with Governor DeSantis’ consistent support for using all the housing trust funds for housing, is great news for affordable housing advocates and recipients all across Florida,” Ross continued.
The 2020-21 budget, signed in June, was the first budget approved since the 2007-08 fiscal year that didn’t redirect part of the affordable housing fund to other purposes. However, the Governor used federal CARES Act dollars to fill in a gap he created by veto because of the pandemic.
The state has also received an average of $542 million from the federal government over the last five years for affordable housing. But advocates say affordable housing needs every dollar it can get, particularly during the pandemic.
Republican Sen. Ben Albritton filed the amendment to the Senate bill. Senators are expected to consider the bill and the amendment during floor session on Wednesday.
The deadline has already passed for House members to amend their version (HB 5401), but leadership backs the new plan.