In 1992, the Florida Legislature adopted the William E. Sadowski Affordable Housing Act, establishing a dedicated revenue source for affordable housing. Today, 16.19 percent of documentary stamp taxes paid on all real estate transactions is dedicated to the Sadowski state and local affordable housing trust funds.
Though this money is intended to be used to fund affordable housing programs including purchase assistance, home repair, multi-family gap financing, barrier free home improvements and foreclosure counseling, lawmakers have “swept” over $2.2 billion from affordable housing trust funds since 2001, targeting their use for other purposes. Those diverted funds would have helped subsidize an estimated additional 166,746 housing units in Florida. The 2018 Legislature continued that trend by sweeping $182 million of the $322 that was available in the trust funds in last year’s budget. Every $1 million in affordable housing trust funds that are appropriated by the legislature supports 77 jobs and provides $7.66 million of economic impact. Affordable housing is a powerful economic driver. Florida is in the midst of an affordable housing crisis. Six out of 10 Miami households are living in or on the edge of poverty according to the United Way ALICE* Report. The study found that this population, comprised of hard-working people who live paycheck to paycheck and earn more than the Federal Poverty Level, cannot consistently cover the cost of living. These are hard-working families who are the backbone of our economy. They represent a large population of residents who work, yet have little or no savings, and are one emergency away from falling into poverty. The 912,967 very low-income Florida households pay more than 50 percent of their incomes for housing. Drawing from research in the ALICE report and from the work of nonprofit, business and government leaders, Florida’s United Ways have developed a Consensus Legislative Agenda for the 2019 Florida Legislature. It will address the challenges working families and individuals who are barely making ends meet face and help improve the affordable housing crisis.
Possible moves forward
At Miami Homes for All (MHFA), their vision is that every Miami-Dade resident can have a safe, stable home. They work to achieve this by researching and advocating for the best affordable housing and homelessness policies, and by fostering strong partnerships between systems of care and other public and civic institutions.
MHFA has partnered with the City of Miami and others in Connect Capital Miami – a cross-sectoral engagement effort that has identified and quantified affordable housing goal and a specific development pipeline. By illuminating the pathways to building more affordable housing and to protecting what exists currently, our community can attract more capital to those projects. A report on this work is due in March 2019. MHFA will also partner with Miami-Dade County in 2019 to create an Affordable Housing Blueprint – a five-year strategy that will include specific, prioritized policy and development recommendations by cross-sectoral representatives. The Blueprint is expected by December 2019. “For renters, Miami-Dade is the least affordable county in the country,” says Annie Lord, Executive Director of Miami Homes for All. “This is primarily driven by the scarcity of land, which restricts our urban sprawl, the high cost of construction and the great demand for homes and apartments in our beautiful region, all of which inflate housing prices.”
A holistic approach
Carlos R. Fernandez-Guzman, president & CEO of Pacific National Bank and chair of the Housing Solutions Committee of the GMCC, believes in focusing on healthy growth of housing via new construction and preserving naturally occurring, to serve the low and moderate income communities, like our ALICE community. “Housing affordability is an integral element of successfully ending homelessness,” he says. “The rehabilitation process toward achieving self-sufficiency and overcoming homelessness cannot be successfully completed without ensuring that affordable permanent housing can be provided.” “Passing the protective legislation for Sadowski is a start,” he says. “Sadowski has become a piggy bank for legislators and this must stop.” “We must also stop relying on real estate cycles to address affordability and plan/think strategically” Fernandez-Guzman continues. “Housing affordability is not just a function of rent. Affordability is a function of rent/cost of transportation/employment opportunities offering a living wage/supportive services – they are all part of the equation. Miami-Dade County and its sister municipalities should come together to develop a rolling 10-year plan to address the affordability challenges holistically.”
How you can help
“Every resident in Miami can participate in addressing this problem in two ways,” Lord says. “First, we need to be more flexible in how we define our way of life. Our county is growing and improving in so many beautiful ways, attracting more residents every day. The only way to absorb more and younger residents is to increase the inventory of housing in more neighborhoods – not just downtown. Those of us who are more fortunate still cannot afford to drive the workforce further and further away from employment centers. Everyone’s quality of life will increase when we can live in more integrated, less segregated communities.” “Second,” she says, “we have to vote for statewide policy-makers and policies that won’t strip away our local ability to address the affordability crisis – one that we experience more than anywhere else in Florida. We all need to vote for state legislators that won’t raid the Affordable Housing Trust Fund. Also, we need to be on the lookout for policies that are proposed under the guise of putting money back into taxpayers’ pockets, when in fact they gouge municipalities’ scarce resources for essential services like fire, police, water and sewer – never mind affordable housing.”
The affordable housing crisis has been incorporated in a bi-partisan bill in state legislature. Republican senator Kathleen Passidomo filed bill 0070 to make it harder to sweep the Sadowski funds into general revenue. We urge you to support our state agenda, senate bill 0070. Send a letter, call or e-mail your local elected officials. For more information, click here.
*The United Way ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) Project is a nationwide effort across 16 states to quantify and describe the number of households that are struggling financially. It is an alternative measure to the outdated Federal Poverty Level, which grossly underestimates the number of struggling families. The report contains data on household budgets, demographics, employment opportunities, housing affordability and other critical economic factors.