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For the first time in 13 years, Florida agrees to fully fund affordable housing

$370 million dollars dedicated for affordable housing in 2020 budget

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – For the first time since 2007, the Florida House and Senate have agreed to fully fund the state’s affordable housing trust fund, known as the Sadowski fund. Both chambers have agreed to dedicate the full $370 million dollars to the fund, instead of taking money out to fund other projects like in year’s past.

“I thought it was a joke,” Representative Carlos Guillermo-Smith said. “I almost didn’t believe that it was happening, ever since I’ve been a member in 2016, we have been talking about fully funding affordable housing till we were blue in the face and it never happened.”

The Sadowski Trust Fund was set up to help ease the burden of housing costs, using money collected from a doc-stamp tax on all state real-estate transactions. Specifically, the trust started out with a 10-cent tax on every $100 of every real estate sale. In 1995, the tax doubled to 20 cents. Each year, the fund collects hundreds of millions of dollars, this money can go a long way to help families and individuals looking for affordable housing: everyone from the homeless to first-time home buyers.

The fund goes to two vital programs in the states called SHIP and SAIL. SHIP provides low-income families with down payment assistance for a new home and SAIL gives low-interest loans to developers who promise to build housing that is affordable.

However, nearly $3 billion have diverted out of the Sadowski Fund to balance the state budget over since 2008.

"That is dedicated dollars for state affordable housing programs that are literally being stolen out of that trust fund to pay for other non-related priorities," he said.

Every year, Smith said legislation is filed to stop the so-called “legislative sweep” taking the funds from the trust and every year he says the bills hit roadblocks.

That was until Saturday.

“That’s 30,000 jobs,” Rep. Smith said. “It’s a $4.4 billion dollar economic impact to our state. So all very good news.”

32 different organizations, including all 67 counties in the state and dozens of non-profits have made up what is called the Sadowski Coalition, fighting for funding to not be taken out. Seminole County was included in the fight. Commissioner Lee Constantine reacting to the news today.

"This is an incredible win for the citizens of Florida," Commissioner Constantine said. "That money will be used to help counties provide more affordable housing for their citizens that are in desperate need."

Though both the Florida House and Senate agreed not to sweep the fund, the budget still has to be finalized. The legislative session ends on Friday, however late Monday House Speaker Representative Jose Oliva said the economic threat of the Coronavirus could impact the budget.

“Before we put this budget in the books, we are doing everything that we can to ensure that should a recession come on, we are leaving future legislatures with the power to overcome it," Rep. Jose Oliva said.


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