House sends affordable housing, environment deal to Gov. DeSantis’ desk

Affordable Housing
The bill passed along near party lines.

The House has passed the Legislature’s revised infrastructure deal, sending the proposal to the man who helped increase the affordable housing side of it.

The deal (SB 2512) would add about $60 million to what lawmakers initially agreed to allocate for affordable housing for the coming fiscal year. That came after Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ office jumped into the negotiations after legislative leaders had already settled on a lower amount.

House members passed the bill on a 78-38 vote Thursday. That followed the Senate’s Wednesday 25-14 vote, a party-line passage.

The bill, filed by Republican Sen. Ben Albritton, would split a portion of documentary stamp tax revenue between the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, sea level rise projects and wastewater grants. That would bring consistent funding to all three areas for years to come.

Affordable housing and the environment were common goals of all House members, said Rep. Josie Tomkow, the House version’s sponsor.

“We are making sure that there is a floor and a minimum of the amount that goes to these funds,” Tomkow added.

For the coming fiscal year, the split equates to $200 million for affordable housing and $111.7 million each to combat sea level rise and to provide wastewater grants. Originally, Senate President Wilton Simpson and House Speaker Chris Sprowls had agreed to split funding between all three equally, at about $140 million for the coming fiscal year.

Democrats and housing advocates contend the entirety of those funds are supposed to go to affordable housing, as lawmakers decided in 1992 when they passed the Sadowski Act. They say the initial deal this year was effectively one of the largest sweeps in the trust fund’s history.

Republicans, however, highlight the fact that the bill prevents lawmakers from raiding the housing trust fund, as they have repeatedly done since the 2008 Recession.

“There’s no trust to be broken because we’re not bound by the decision of a prior Legislature any more than a future Legislature is bound by the decisions that we make here,” Rep. Randy Fine said.

Rep. Omari Hardy said he appreciated that the bill acknowledges the threats of rising sea levels. However, the West Palm Beach Democrat said the deal puts forward a false choice.

“It says the only way that we can address these issues … is to fund it on the backs of working-class Floridians who are struggling to find a place that they can live in and a place they can afford,” Hardy said.

Over the last five years, the state has put about $160 million in documentary stamp tax dollars toward affordable housing. The original $140 million amount would have been one of the smallest disbursements for affordable housing in recent years — and on a recurring basis.

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.

DeSantis has repeatedly requested the affordable housing trust funds remain fully funded, and he did so again this year.

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 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.

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.


One comment

  • Anika Omphroy

    April 8, 2021 at 7:35 pm

    Renzo Downey,

    Pressed wrong button please see updated vote. Would truly appreciate the update being reflected in your article. Thank you in advance for your consideration of my requested update.

    Thank you,

    Anika Omphroy

    Emailed at 2:15pm no update as of 7:33pm
    Vote was updated once error was noted at 11:36am in house system.

    Reply

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