With the Legislature again facing a revenue shortfall for some
$2 billion, Florida's affordable-housing trust funds will once more be at risk.
As we've seen in the past, the term "trust fund"
offers no protection from legislative raiders willing to go to any lengths to
avoid raising tax revenues to pay the state's bills.
But further depleting the Sadowski housing funds — which have
suffered three straight years of such raids and the loss of $706 million —
would be shortsighted in an economy that remains desperate for housing
investments and jobs.
That's why the Sadowski Housing Coalition — a collection of
business and governmental groups, charities and advocates for the poor and
elderly — is appealing to the Legislature to stop using the funds to boost the
state's general revenues.
Coalition facilitator Jaimie Ross has noted that the $116.6
million that the fund is expected to add in fiscal year 2012-2013 could create
some 9,000 jobs and $900 million in economic impact, and help the state avoid
future budget shortfalls — online:www.sadowskicoalition.com.
USE FUNDS PROPERLY
The Sadowski affordable-housing funds are composed of local and
state revenue from documentary-stamp taxes paid on property sales. While the
recession has reduced those sales, and the need for new housing, the funds can
still be used to repair and rehabilitate old apartment buildings and foreclosed,
And although Florida housing prices have fallen dramatically,
those prices — and lenders' stricter requirements for home loans — are still
beyond the reach of the average Florida wage-earner.
"If you have a house that was $500,000 and now it's down to
$200,000," said Mark Hendrickson, former head of the state housing agency
and now a private consultant, in a coalition press release, "how does that
help someone making $20,000 or $30,000 a year?"
What might help, instead, would be renovated rental units and
the rehabilitation of abandoned homes — the types of projects the Sadowski
funds can help.
Such projects would provide jobs for unemployed construction
workers, renovate eyesores that hold down property values, and give many Florida
communities an economic shot in the arm.
We know that legislators must make painful budget choices in a
slow-to-recover economy. But draining millions of dollars from the
affordable-housing funds would jeopardize projects that can help turn the economy
around. It wasn't a sound strategy in the past, and it makes even less sense
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