THE ISSUE: Florida’s affordable housing crisis.

OUR OPINION: Stop raiding the state’s housing trust fund.

Demographic research affirms that the availability of affordable housing is fundamental to a community’s quality of life.

It stimulates local economies by creating jobs. It improves a family’s overall health and helps children to perform better in school by providing a stable environment. It makes our communities safer by serving to reduce crime and drug abuse. It lessens the taxpayers’ burden by expanding the tax base, enabling the elderly and disabled to live independently, and by breaking the cycle of chronic homelessness.

Recognizing these economic and social benefits, Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment in 1992 that spurred enactment of the William E. Sadowski Act. This landmark legislation created a dedicated source of revenue for affordable housing from a portion of documentary stamp taxes on the transfer of real estate to leverage federal programs and private investment.

Despite the landmark legislation, Florida’s affordable housing is in crisis due to the legalized looting of more than $2.2 billion from the Sadowski Trust Fund by state lawmakers every year since 2001 — enough to have subsidized nearly 177,000 new homes.

This legalized looting has contributed to Florida having the third-highest homeless population in the nation and nearly 2 million cost-burdened households paying more than 30% of their income for housing. These households, which include hardworking families, seniors, and people with disabilities, are potentially one missed paycheck or financial setback away from becoming homeless.

Given the low wage prevalence of Florida’s economy, workers in many occupations do not earn enough to rent a modest apartment or buy a first home. Adding to this bleak picture is the shrinking inventory of rental units, with the state losing some 59,000 subsidized housing units — mainly apartments — between 1993 and 2016, amid a growing population and rising rents.

With over half of the rental households in Citrus County cost-

burdened, the common thread among the participants during the recent Citrus 2030 Vision Check was the critical need for more affordable housing.

Although this need has spurred the Crystal River council’s recent approval of a $354,000 loan towards a proposed $19 million,

96-unit housing community, as well as several other affordable housing developments in the county, meeting this need in any Florida county will be a losing battle, if the Legislature’s raids on the housing trust fund continue.

As such, Gov. DeSantis’ first budget message recognized the economic and social benefits of affordable housing by declaring “all housing trust fund money should be used for housing.” Nevertheless, the Legislature continued its looting of the trust fund by $125 million this year.

If state legislators could only keep their hands off the affordable housing piggy bank, the lives of tens of thousands of Floridians would be improved and the state’s economy would be pumped by the tens of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars.

With Florida’s affordable housing crisis resting squarely on the shoulders of state lawmakers, it’s their responsibility to fix it by simply keeping their hands out of the Sadowski Trust Fund.

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