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Effort To Redistribute Affordable Housing Stopped


Florida Realtors stopped their campaign to get a constitutional amendment for affordable housing on the ballot.

Plans for a proposed constitutional amendment supporting affordable housing have been nixed.

Realtors spent nearly three million dollars before ending the ballot initiative effort this week.

The state realtor association, Florida Realtors, launched the campaign after lawmakers cut a decades-old fund for affordable housing in half. Instead, the group now says working directly with lawmakers on policy will be the fastest way to address Florida's affordable housing crisis.

Jaimie Ross, chief executive officer of the Florida Housing Coalition, said the ballot initiative's language may have been too vague as it called for "accessible and available housing."

"It might not have been to the benefit of folks needing affordable housing," she said.

In a statement, Florida Realtors said the move came after discussions with legislative leaders.

Media reports also show that the group had collected just 64,937 of the 891,589 signatures needed to get on the 2022 ballot as of Tuesday.

The group’s focus now shifts to protecting the remaining affordable housing funds, and to creating home-buying programs for front-line workers.

The state legislature passed the William E. Sadowski Affordable Housing Act in 1992. Under the legislation, a small charge is made on every real estate transaction. The money is then put in a trust fund which supplies affordable housing efforts in Florida.

But for years, the Florida legislature has used a large chunk of the money to fuel the state’s budget.

This past legislative session, the state passed a law that stopped the sweeps from the affordable housing budget. But the state also permanently diverted 50 percent of the fund for resiliency and sewer/septic costs.

Still, what remains in the housing fund is far more than what affordable housing programs have received for the nearly two decades, Ross said. The legislature has been taking more than 50 percent of the money in the trust for the past almost 20 years.

“So what we have in Senate Bill 2512 is a promise that there will be no more sweeps, and being able to rely on recurring revenue,” Ross said. “So when the market is high, as it is now, the doc stamp collections are high, and we don't have to fight to make sure that that money is not swept into general revenue, which is what's been happening over year after year.”

Bailey LeFever is a reporter focusing on education and health in the greater Tampa Bay region.