Realtor groups infuse $8M into effort to protect affordable housing funds

Affordable Housing
Florida Realtors has now funneled $10M to the ballot initiative.

A committee sponsoring a ballot initiative to prevent the Legislature from budgeting affordable housing funds for other purposes raised more than $8 million last month.

The committee, Floridians for Housing, received just three contributions last month, including a $5 million check from Florida Realtors and a $3 million contribution from the National Association of Realtors. The other contribution was marked down as $549.36 in interest generated from the largesse.

Florida Realtors has now funneled $10 million into the committee in all. The trade association sent a $3 million check to kick-start the ballot initiative in mid-March and followed up with another $2 million in May. Those checks represent the whole of the committee’s fundraising since it launched.

Realtor groups began underwriting the effort after lawmakers in the 2021 Legislative Session devised a new split for affordable housing money.

The state’s affordable housing trust funds were expected to receive more than $420 million for the 2021-22 fiscal year before Republicans struck a deal to permanently split the affordable housing funds between housing and environmental efforts, leaving about $200 million for affordable housing.

However, part of that deal was to place the affordable housing trust funds in a pot that lawmakers can’t redirect into the general revenue pool.

Still, housing advocates likened that to permanently sweeping half of what the affordable housing trust funds are supposed to receive. And the Legislature could renege on their agreement and pass a new law permitting further sweeps again.

Florida Realtors’ fast work in funding Floridians for Housing came ahead of a new law that would have capped contributions to committees sponsoring amendments at $3,000 until the amendment secured a spot on the ballot.

Critics panned the proposal as a blatant attempt to keep proposed amendments off the ballot, citing the immense cost to gather the needed signatures.

On the eve of that law’s July 1 effective date, a federal judge blocked it from going into effect, arguing that it directly conflicts with “[b]inding decisions from the United States Supreme Court.”

June also saw the committee start writing checks of its own. As is the list of donors, the expenditure sheet is brief.

Floridians for Housing sent an $8,175 check to Shutts & Brown for research consulting, while Gainesville-based SGS picked up $2.5 million for “ballot initiative electioneering.” The sizable transfer is presumably a down payment on the statewide signature-gathering effort.

Constitutional amendments require 891,589 signatures to make the ballot, a number pegged to 8% of turnout in the most recent presidential election. If amendments make the ballot, they need at least 60% of the vote to pass.

As it stands, Floridians for Housing is one of the better-funded efforts aiming to go before voters in 2022, with $10.48 million on hand at the end of June.

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Florida Politics reporter Renzo Downey contributed to this post.

Drew Wilson

Drew Wilson covers legislative campaigns and fundraising for Florida Politics. He is a former editor at The Independent Florida Alligator and business correspondent at The Hollywood Reporter. Wilson, a University of Florida alumnus, covered the state economy and Legislature for LobbyTools and The Florida Current prior to joining Florida Politics.


One comment

  • Robert Himschoot

    July 8, 2021 at 8:36 am

    Amendments mandating requiring specific funding for any cause is dangerous. This should not be rolled out for general advocacy because most voters do not spend enough time reviewing the real budget issue. Catchy phrases cannot explain the process. The potential constitutional amendment designating funding do not leave latitude for balancing budget.

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