Florida voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment last November securing funds for the environment. Now, affordable housing advocates are worried this mandate could mean fewer dollars for low income families.
There is a series of bills working their way through legislative committees that map out Amendment One. One bill said the state’s conservation program will take a third of something called a documentary stamp tax.
It gets first crack at that money, and what’s left over is then divided up for other purposes.
And that has affordable housing advocates like Jaimie Ross with the Sadowski Housing Coalition worried.
She said before Amendment One, affordable housing used to get a cut from the entire pot of money – not just what’s left over.
And this year, she said affordable housing is estimated to get $267 million. That is unless the bill - as it’s written - gets passed. That number would drop to about $154 million. That’s lower than the legislature’s appropriation for affordable housing last year.
“It’s a $100 million hit to veterans who are trying to get out of homelessness,” she said. “To disabled people who we need to retrofit houses for, to elderly that we’re helping to age in place. It’s all the Floridians who are in desperate in need of assistance from these affordable housing dollars.”
But Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon Florida, said it’s wishful thinking that affordable housing will receive its full estimate.
He said there’s a difference between what those programs are authorized to receive and what the legislature will actually give them.
Draper said Amendment One is the not reason affordable housing money would be cut. He said it’s up to state lawmakers.
“There is a billion dollar surplus in the budget right now and there are proposals to actually cut taxes this year so if the affordable housing want to look someplace where they should be able to be getting their money they should look at the tax cut. Why blame the environment? The voters didn’t create the problem for affordable housing. It’s the legislature’s problem,” he said.
The Housing Coalition’s Jaimie Ross said she would rather see a bill that allows affordable housing to take from the total pool of money - just like Amendment One.