By the Miami Herald Editorial Board | April 14, 2021
Republicans are gutting Florida’s housing fund again. Gov. DeSantis should stop them
Florida lawmakers have been raiding the state’s affordable housing fund for so long, they’ve decided to drop the pretense and alter the law to fit their own twisted reasoning.
That’s what’s happening in Tallahassee now, where legislators have been siphoning money from the state’s housing trust fund to pay for other budget items for 18 years, housing advocates say. Lawmakers passed a bill last week that, if Gov. Ron DeSantis signs it, will permanently enshrine those shoddy actions into law.
And in a year when the state is set to get $10 billion in COVID money from the feds and an unexpected $2 billion in state taxes, that change is not only wrong, it’s unnecessary.
The trust fund money comes from a tax on real-estate transactions. Under Senate Bill 2512, money previously slated for affordable housing will now be divided three ways: for sea-level rise, for wastewater issues such as septic-to-sewer conversions and for affordable-housing programs. Affordable housing gets just 9 percent of the money.
Flooding and pollution definitely are important issues that need to be tackled in a serious way. Just not this way.
Created in 1992
The proposed law is also supposed to — finally — stop the Legislature’s longstanding practice of “sweeping” affordable-housing money into the general fund whenever there’s a budgetary hole. That’s nice, but it doesn’t change the fact that much of the affordable-housing trust fund will be spent elsewhere.
It was the Legislature that created this trust fund back in 1992, passing the William E. Sadowski Affordable Housing Act after Sadowski — a Miami lawyer, legislator and Department of Community Affairs chief known for his fair dealings and a willingness to talk things out — died in a state plane crash that year at age 48.
His 16-point creed for legislative service, written in the 1980s for freshman lawmakers, included such mind-blowing concepts (in today’s world) as serving all of the people and respecting opposing viewpoints.
DeSantis has tried to honor the state’s original commitment, at least on paper. Twice in his proposed budget, he has included full funding for affordable housing — about $423 million this year, which housing advocates say could generate $4.9 billion in economic benefits and create 33,000 jobs.