Florida lawmakers are sending legislation that reduces the percentage for the pot of money that goes into affordable housing to Governor Ron DeSantis. Democrats say the bill eliminates the Affordable Housing Trust Fund (also known as the Sadowski Fund), as they argued against the bill saying it would sweep Sadowski funding for affordable housing programs, while Republicans praised the bill amid the COVID-19 and housing crisis, claiming the funds will instead be used for issues such as sea level rise and wastewater systems.
According to the Florida Housing Coalition, lawmakers have been pulling money out for 18 years from what’s called the Sadowski Trust Funds, resulting in “a shortage of more than 344,000 affordable homes for lower-income Floridians.” According to the Sadowski Coalition, “by using all the Sadowski fund for housing,” Florida will:
- Create 33,286 jobs;
- Generate $4,963,951,961 in total economic impact;
- House 47,845 people;
- Build, rehabilitate or sell 19,138 houses; and
- Generate $167,025,044 in revenue.”
“We all know how important it is to our state and its residents to ensure improvements to water quality by funding wastewater grants and we want to support that effort too,” said State Representative Carlos Smith during the debate. “But what we do not want is to fund these vital efforts on the backs of our essential workers…We do not want to permanently cripple our state’s ability to combat our affordable housing crisis by continuing to steal the doc stamp tax distributions.”
Other Orlando state lawmakers also weighed in.
“Session after session, we’ve been fighting for affordable housing,” State Senator Victor Torres said during debate in the Senate. “We need to have the Sadowski Fund fully funded.”
Orlando State Representative Anna Eskamani suggested that the state has federal dollars available through the Biden administration’s COVID-19 relief package for projects that tackle issues for which Republicans claimed they needed to divert funding. “Literally it says in the act passed by Congress, that states can spend this money on water projects. So, we also have billions of dollars we can allocate for that to the point where we don’t need to cut into this affordable housing trust fund,” said Rep. Eskamani.
Representative Patricia Williams also supported Rep. Smith’s measure to protect affordable housing funds.
“Look at the numbers. A liar can figure but the figures do not lie. This is a common sense solution to revitalize Florida’s economy. Representative Carlos Smith introduced an amendment that would effectively keep funds in the Affordable Housing Trust Fund in place while still addressing the issues of water quality and resilience,” said Representative Patricia Williams. “This is an egregious attack on hardworking Floridians who are struggling to keep a roof over their head. We must ensure all Floridians have an improved quality of life by keeping monies in the Sadowski Fund.”
The final point remains: affordable housing programs in Florida still face a major cut in funding.