House Democratic leadership is criticizing previous lawmakers and the current Governor for their inaction addressing affordable housing issues.
At a Tuesday news conference, Minority Leader Evan Jenne said legislators who are no longer in office failed to take affordable housing issues seriously, which has made it difficult to deal with the problem now that it is in every corner of the state.
“For well over a decade, members — both Democrat and Republican — from South Florida have been warning about the coming storm that is affordable housing in the state of Florida,” Jenne said. “A lot of folks didn’t take it very seriously, and quite frankly, couldn’t have cared less.”
According to research by Apartment List, a rental listing company, five Florida cities (Miami, St. Petersburg, Orlando, Tampa and Jacksonville) are among the top 20 U.S. cities with the fastest climbing rent prices. Florida also leads the nation in housing unaffordability, with 56.5% of renters spending 30% or more of their income on housing.
Rep. Fentrice Driskell criticized a process called sweeping, where money allocated to affordable housing gets diverted to the General Revenue Fund for other things. The Legislature has swept more than $2 billion from affordable housing in the state since 2007, according to the Florida Policy Institute.
Democratic Whip Ramon Alexander also criticized Gov. Ron DeSantis for not discussing the affordable housing crisis during his State of the State address last week.
“You would hold … in the midst of some of the most difficult challenges in our state’s future, that this would be a priority of discussion,” he said. “Not critical race theory. Not some of the boogeyman things around here that distract us from some of the key issues.”
Part of DeSantis’ Freedom First budget includes $355.5 million for affordable housing programs from the State and Local Government Housing Trust Funds. However, Driskell expressed concerns that sweeping is not over. While she said Republican lawmakers have contended sweeping will not occur, she pointed to last year’s SB 2512, which sent affordable housing dollars to other specific projects, not the general fund.
“They can say that they haven’t swept, but the fact remains that it’s under-resourced,” she said. “We’re not, as a Legislature, giving people the freedom that they need to be healthy, prosperous and safe to pursue the American dream, and to be able to have an affordable home.”