America’s affordable housing crisis has reached a new milestone

February 19, 2017 — The affordable-housing crunch worsened last year. In the final quarter of last year, Americans spent the highest share of their incomes on mortgage payments since 2010, according to real estate company Zillow. 

The economy’s improvement after the housing crash generated new buyer demand for housing, even though the homeownership rate remained historically low.

Read the entire Business Insider article.

Create jobs by restoring state funding for affordable housing: Where We Stand

February 17, 2017 — Gov. Rick Scott has been in a pitched political battle with Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran over the fate of the state’s economic development and tourism marketing agencies. Last week Scott said House members who voted to eliminate Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida “didn’t care about jobs.” Hasn’t the governor heard the old warning about throwing stones from glass houses?

In the budget proposal Scott submitted to legislators in December, he called for diverting $224 million from affordable housing trust funds to spend for other purposes.  That’s more than three-quarters of the $292 million projected to flow into the funds next year under a 1992 law that reserves a share of documentary stamp taxes on real-estate transactions to invest in affordable housing.

Read the entire Orlando Sentinel Op-Ed.

Century continues to rebuild on tornado anniversary

February 16, 2017 — Several houses are still waiting to be demolished and others are still in the process of being rebuilt in Century, one year since an EF3 tornado tore through the town.

The general sentiment from residents and some government officials is that the rebuilding process has not moved as quickly as many had hoped.

“It’s been a slow go,” Century resident, Willie Wilson, said. Wilson lives on Front Street in the town’s historic district. Many homes on front street were destroyed in the tornado. Several homes in Jefferson Avenue, were also destroyed. But there was damage throughout the town.

Read the entire WEAR TV Channel 3 story.

Rick Scott’s budget would raid affordable housing trust funds

February 15, 2017 — Gov. Rick Scott’s proposed budget would shift nearly 77 percent of the $293.4 million earmarked for low-income housing next year to other state priorities.

That works out to $224 million from state and local housing trust funds that won’t go for their intended purpose. State law reserves a portion of the take from documentary stamp tax on real estate transactions for low-income housing. The trust fund total is an estimate reached by state economists in December, and could vary depending on the housing market.

Read the entire Florida Politics blog.

Tiny home fulfills big dream for Central Florida veteran

February 6, 2017 — A nonprofit dedicated to empowering veterans stopped in Central Florida this weekend to give a local wounded warrior a fresh start.

Operation Tiny Home brought its Build a Better Future Program to the Orlando area for a three-day workshop that runs through Monday. The program brings veterans together to learn construction skills as they build a so-called tiny house for a fellow veteran in need. The homes, typically 750 square feet or smaller, are a new concept designed to make housing more affordable.

Read the entire WESH Channel 2 segment.

Keeping affordable housing on the radar is critical

February 2, 2017 — A give-and-take process is beginning in Tallahassee over affordable housing for the workforce and senior citizens, and we hope it involves little to no take.

Historically, there’s been take, take and take again because the governor’s office and lawmakers have seen affordable housing trust funds set up 25 years ago as manna to balance the budget.

In 1992, the state agreed to begin setting aside a scheduled portion of documentary stamp taxes from real estate transactions for two programs.

Read the entire Naples Daily News editorial.

Editorial: Give all, don’t take, in addressing housing

February 1, 2017 — As a panel of experts dives this week into Collier County’s pressing issue of providing attainable housing for the workforce and senior citizens, a give-and-take process begins in Tallahassee that we hope involves little to no take.

Historically, there’s been take, take and take again because the governor’s office and lawmakers have seen affordable housing trust funds set up 25 years ago as manna to balance the budget.

In 1992, the state agreed to begin setting aside a scheduled portion of documentary stamp taxes from real estate transactions for two programs.

Read the entire Naples Daily News editorial.

Successful fund for affordable housing deserves support

January 16, 2017 — One of Florida’s most successful programs for producing jobs and addressing the housing shortage must beg for funds. What makes this story so troubling is that there is money set aside for this program, called the Sadowski Fund. But like other trust funds in the state, money often is swept into the general fund in the governor’s budget and by legislative leaders in the budgeting process.

Read the entire Florida Times-Union article.

Ken Reecy named interim head of Florida Housing

January 13, 2017 — Ken Reecy has been named Interim Executive Director of the Florida Housing Finance Corporation (FHFC), according to a press release. Cissy Proctor, Executive Director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, announced the move on Friday. Reecy currently serves as the agency’s Multifamily Program Director.

“Ken has extensive experience and is committed to helping Florida families secure safe, affordable housing in communities all across our state,” Proctor said in a statement. “He has a strong understanding of the unique programs used to meet different needs for affordable housing in Florida and is a respected leader at the agency.”

The release added, “A national search for a permanent Executive Director is underway.”

Read the entire Florida Politics article.

Lawton Jackson: Housing issues have promising solution

December 31, 2016 — Under the Gainesville For All umbrella, area citizens have been meeting since early November to discuss problems in the Gainesville region related to housing and transportation. The housing and transportation team has hosted several speakers, including Scott Winzeler from Habitat for Humanity, Jesus Gomez from Gainesville’s Regional Transit System and City Manager Anthony Lyons.

The team identified several specific areas of difficulty regarding housing – specifically, the current lack of affordable low- and moderate-income housing, and the anticipated increase in this disparity as the University of Florida implements its strategic plan for the future.

Read the entire Gainesville Sun editorial.

 

Low Income Housing Does Not Harm Property Values, Report Shows

November 18, 2016 — Low income housing units have no effect on nearby property values, according to a new study by real estate company Trulia.  The finding comes at a time when there are some concerns around affordable housing in Leon County.

Some of the most common concerns around affordable housing construction are tied to home values. But this study reaffirms a body of research that undermines those fears. And it works to counteract the so-called NIMBY mindset, meaning ‘not in my backyard’. A proposed tiny house development in Fort Braden was met with similar concerns earlier this year. Florida Housing Coalition President Jaimie Ross says too many picture slums when they hear the word affordable.

Read the entire WFSU story.

Make Affordable Housing State Priority

November 12, 2016 — As Florida’s House and Senate prepare for the 2017 regular session by holding organizational and committee meetings beginning in several weeks, the state’s affordable housing crisis should be a pressing issue. The shortage becomes more acute daily as hard-working families struggle with housing costs eating up more than 50 percent of their income — almost a million low-income Floridians suffer this fate.

Read the entire Bradenton Herald editorial.

Orange County’s Regional Affordable Housing Summit Highlights Creative Housing Solutions

October 30, 2016 — Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs hosted the inaugural Regional Affordable Housing Summit on Oct. 20 at the Orange County Convention Center. Planners, developers and local government leaders from across the region gathered to explore affordable housing solutions for Central Florida, including strategies, tools and best practices being implemented throughout Florida and across the country.

“It’s imperative that throughout our region, we explore a variety of available housing options to encourage a more inclusive housing market conducive to sustainable communities,” Mayor Jacobs said. “This Regional Affordable Housing Summit tackles a wide variety of issues and solutions, and will be followed by a number of topic-specific workshops in 2017. Particularly, as our economy continues to flourish, it is vital that we take action to help support our citizens through the creation of a robust housing marketplace.”

Read the entire West Orlando News article.

Industry insiders: Affordable housing needs more attention

October 25, 2016 — Metro Orlando’s mounting housing-affordability gap strikes first-time buyers and young college grads as much as anyone, said speakers at an Orange County summit Thursday.

“Affordable housing is not just about ag workers and the disadvantaged,” said Andres Duany, an architect renowned for urban-style neighborhoods such as Seaside. “You know who’s disadvantaged? It’s people with [recent] master’s degrees.”

Read the entire Orlando Sentinel article.

At summit, Teresa Jacobs announces intent to come up with affordable housing solutions by mid-2017

October 25, 2016  — In spite of the gains made recently in affordable housing in Orange County, Mayor Teresa Jacobs and the other speakers at the first Regional Affordable Housing Summit aren’t resting on their laurels, instead seeing it as only the first chapter to bigger changes to come.

Jacobs, standing in the Orange County Convention Center on break after the first part of the summit Thursday morning, said the county would work with other local governments and the City of Orlando to come up with a list of the best solutions proposed at the summit to then take further, which should occur sometime next spring or summer.

Read the entire Orlando Rising article.

Regional Affordable Housing Summit highlights creative housing solutions

October 25, 2016 — Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs hosted the inaugural Regional Affordable Housing Summit on October 20th at the Orange County Convention Center. Planners, developers and local government leaders from across the region gathered to explore affordable housing solutions for Central Florida, including strategies, tools and best practices being implemented throughout Florida and across the country.

Read the entire The Apopka Voice story.

Volunteers to rebuild tornado-damaged homes

October 20, 2016 — World Renew-Disaster Response Services is returning to Escambia County to assist in restoring homes for tornado survivors.

World Renew is partnering with the Escambia County Long Term Recovery Group, made up of organizations that have been assisting low-income survivors in their recovery since an EF-3 destroyed and damaged more than 140 homes in February. World Renew will provide skilled volunteer labor to construct replacement homes and make repairs on others that were damaged.

Read the entire Pensacola News Journal story.

Hayward: Workforce housing needed

October 11, 2016 — There’s no place like home. It’s where we are sheltered, find our peace, start our day, plan our future, raise our children and keep all that is precious to us. As Pensacola and the rest of the country rebound from the recession and housing crisis, some segments of our community are still struggling in the wake of the recovery. Living on the outskirts of the American dream, too many hard-working families cannot afford the costs of homeownership. It’s an unrelenting problem, not easily addressed and never fully solved. Nevertheless, we must devote ourselves and our resources to increasing our affordable housing inventory. Why, you ask?

Read the entire Pensacola News Journal story.

Elections 2016: The Tug of War Over Florida’s Affordable Housing Fund

October 4, 2016 — “Everything went well,” Jesse Scott said with relief as he walked out of his interview at CareerSource Capital Region, an employment and training center in Tallahassee.

“There’s a lot of people that live on [the] edge. Many Floridians do base their livelihood on making a 40-hour work week each week,” Scott said. “If something interrupts that, you can fall between the cracks.”

Read the entire WLRN story.

County, city seek input on fair housing issues

September 23, 2016 — Hillsborough County, the City of Tampa, and the Tampa Housing Authority invite the public to provide input on fair housing issues through a series of public workshops.

Hosted by Hillsborough County’s Affordable Housing Services, the series of community meetings will inform the public about the Assessment of Fair Housing.

The Assessment of Fair Housing is required every five years by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and is designed to help communities and housing authorities prevent and combat discrimination, foster inclusiveness and remove barriers to opportunity based on race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin, disability, age, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression.

Read the entire Tampa Bay Times article.

Hunt for Volusia homeless solution continues

July 21, 2016 — Less than 24 hours after the idea to turn a vacant riverfront building into a temporary homeless shelter withered, some of the best local minds on homelessness gathered late Thursday afternoon for a meeting to talk about the most effective ways to help the unsheltered.

Three hours after the 30 leaders of nonprofits, churches and local governments started talking, they hadn’t come up with a sure-fire solution. But most in the Daytona State College meeting room didn’t walk in with that intention. The meeting was aimed at having a more general discussion, and it ended with most agreeing their long-term goal is permanent housing for the homeless and their short-term goal is to not throw up their hands and give up.

South Florida still facing severe housing – cost burden, study finds

June 23, 2016 — South Florida’s housing-cost burden has improved marginally but remains one of the worst in the country, according to an annual report from Harvard University researchers.

In Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties, 25 percent of households spend more than half of their incomes on monthly housing costs, data from Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies show.

Read the entire Sun Sentinel article.

Bank Fund targeting affordable housing fund

Ken Thomas, a longtime economist and banking consultant, thinks it’s inexcusable that many South Floridians making $40,000 or $50,000 a year can’t afford to buy a home. He recently launched the Community Development Fund, an investment vehicle exclusively for banks and thrifts designed to promote affordable or work force housing across Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

Read the entire Sun Sentinel article.

5 Ways to Overcome NIMBYism

June 3,  2016 — 1. Educate the Community. The key to overcoming NIMBY (Not in My Back Yard) opposition is to educate people as to what affordable housing really is and what it is not, says Charles Lewis, senior vice president for Conifer Realty.

“When people hear the term ‘affordable housing,’ they tend to think of the worst-looking public housing project in the worst neighborhood in their town,” he says.

Conifer works to dispel those myths by explaining that affordable housing is rental housing affordable to a family of four earning $50,000 (or 60% of the area median income), who the residents are, and where they are from.

Read the entire Affordable Housing Finance article.

Vengroff’s project gets green light

May 16,  2016 — The City Commission on Monday cleared the way for Sarasota’s first large-scale affordable housing project, unanimously agreeing to change its long-range growth plan to accommodate the complex.

The comprehensive plan amendment reclassifies the property at 2211 Fruitville Road as part of the downtown core, allowing developer Harvey Vengroff to build a higher-density apartment complex than would otherwise be permitted. Vengroff plans to construct as many as 393 apartments in five, six-story buildings, with rents ranging from $650 to $950 per month.

Read the entire Sarasota Herald-Tribune article.

Group Home Residents Inspire Neighbors

May 2,  2016 — A framed painting of a tree is barely noticeable in an immaculate, spacious house with wide-screen televisions, exercise equipment, leather sofas and a kitchen table long enough to seat the royal family.

Yet, for the six women who live in the east Pensacola subdivision house, the painting that hangs in the foyer is their prized possession. Neighbors presented the painting to the women as a housewarming gift after they moved into the Arc Gateway group home in early March. Thumbprints from 41 Bay Cliff neighbors serve as tree leaves, and “May your walls know joy” is written on the left side of the bark and “May every room hold laughter and every window open to great possibility” is on the right.

Read the entire Pensacola News-Journal article.

Affordable housing solutions sought

April 22,  2016 — Leaders of Sarasota’s county and city affordable housing committees approved updates Friday to their state housing initiatives partnership programs, which streamline the development processes for building affordable housing throughout the area.

Read the entire Sarasota Herald Tribune article.

South Florida cities among the worse for affordable housing, studies find

April 15, 2016 — Residents in six South Florida cities face some of the toughest housing burdens in the country, a new report shows. Miami ranks fourth nationwide on a list of the most cost-burdened communities, with 19.34 percent of residents spending at least half of their monthly incomes on rent or mortgage payments, according to SmartAsset.com, a personal finance website. Pembroke Pines was sixth with 18.84 percent of residents spending half or more of their wages on housing.

Read the entire South Florida Sun Sentinel article.

Priced out of the market in downtown West Palm? City says help on way

March 28, 2016 — Try finding an affordable place to live in downtown West Palm Beach. Not easy. With the economy and real estate market on the rise, plenty of luxury condos are on the planning boards. But there’s a dearth of lower-priced condos and rentals to serve those with moderate incomes who want to live downtown or in Northwood. So the City Commission on Monday approved a package of financial incentives it hopes will encourage developers to include workforce housing in their projects.

Read the entire Palm Beach Post article.

Orlando ranks last in housing options for low income residents

March 28, 2016 — Metro Orlando, long considered an affordable housing market, has the nation’s greatest shortage of rentals for extremely low-income tenants, a new study shows. Orlando, in a tie with Las Vegas, ranked worst nationally for availability of apartments that meet the needs of its most struggling group of renters, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

Read the entire Orlando Sentinel Article.

South Florida housing market barrels toward unaffordability

March 24, 2016 — The South Florida housing market is barreling toward an affordability crunch, a report published Thursday shows. Despite homes being more affordable during 2016’s first quarter, which runs from Jan. 1 to March 31, compared to levels dating back to 2005, median home prices continue to outpace wage growth, according to a home affordability index crafted by RealtyTrac, a service that aggregates national housing data.

Read the entire Miami Herald article.

State’s $20 million could help Collier County offer low-income rental options

March 24 2016 — A $20 million loan in next year’s state budget could help quell the soaring cost of rent in Collier County. The loan, expected to be highly competitive, would be available to developers across the state vying to build affordable units. Any developers hoping to use the money here would likely need support from the county government to have a chance at getting a piece of it.

Read the entire Naples Daily News article.

 

County Commissioners get three part presentation- Series on home affordability; homelessness

March 16, 2016 — At Tuesday’s Manatee County Commission work session, representatives from the University of Florida and Shimberg Center for Housing Studies provided members with data for the third part in a series of four called All Things Housing. Tuesday’s presentations dealt with housing affordability and homelessness. Florida Housing Data Clearinghouse Manager, Anne Ray, and William O’Dell, Director of the Shimberg Center, opened Tuesday’s session pointing out affordability being the most challenging issue if Manatee County is to succeed with an affordable housing program.

Read the entire Brandenton Times article.

State housing experts talk about Manatee housing problem

March 15, 2016 — In Manatee County, thousands of residents are paying more than 30 percent of their income for housing, a state housing expert told the Manatee County Commission on Tuesday. “What I saw here, that I haven’t seen in a lot of places, is you have cost-burden households across the board,” said Anne Ray, Florida Housing Data Clearinghouse manager at the University of Florida Shimberg Center for Housing Studies. “A lot of places, the very lowest-income renters would be by far the largest of any single group in need. Here you have great need at the extremely low-income level. You have cost-burden households at that sort of moderate but still low-income level and you have households that have a cost burden above that low-income threshold.”

Read the entire Bradenton Herald article.

 

Guest Commentary: Florida lawmakers deliver to assist with affordable housing

March 14, 2016 — On behalf of hardworking families, seniors, veterans, those experiencing homelessness and those with special needs throughout the state, the Florida Senate and House of Representatives took a positive step this legislative session. Together, both chambers came to an agreement on funding for affordable housing, recommending that $214.1 million be appropriated from Florida’s housing trust funds toward affordable housing.

Read the entire Naples Daily News Op-Ed.

Affordable housing funding- Help for homeless and elderly

March 8, 2016 — The Florida Housing Coalition appreciates the work of the Florida Senate and House in coming to an agreement to recommend that $214.1 million be appropriated from Florida’s housing trust funds toward affordable housing. We appreciate that they increased the budget for affordable housing by a large percentage and provided funding for the homeless and other housing projects.

 

Jaimie Ross: Kudos to the Legislature for providing money to affordable housing 

March 3, 2016 — On behalf of hard-working families, seniors, veterans, those experiencing homelessness and those with special needs throughout the state, the Florida Senate and House of Representatives took a positive step this week. Together, both chambers came to an agreement on funding for affordable housing, recommending that $214.1 million be appropriated from Florida’s housing trust funds toward affordable housing. The Sadowski Coalition is thankful for all the hard work that the Senate and House have put into this budget. We applaud them for coming to agreement on this vital issue that affects Floridians in all corners of the state, while also including more than $5.2 million for homeless and other housing projects.

Read the entire Context Florida Op-Ed.

 

Solving the Housing Crisis in Collier County

March 1, 2016 — Officials with Habitat for Humanity, the Florida Housing Coalition and the Board of County Commissioners will hold a workshop Tuesday to discuss the high cost of living. “The number of inquiries and people we’re working with has doubled in less than a year and a half, and it is certainly a result of increased rents, decreased inventory,” said Lisa Lefkow, Collier’s Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity.

View the entire WFTX Fox 4 news story.

Keep housing trust fund money just for housing

February 16, 2016 — Not a week goes by where you don’t see an article, listen to the radio or see a TV segment about the “housing affordability crisis” in the Palm Beach County area. We are having trouble recruiting essential workers, such as teachers, to our area — primarily because the prices on both for-sale and rental housing have been steadily increasing over the years.

Read the entire Palm Beach Post Op-Ed.

State Senate, House see affordable housing differently

February 6, 2016 — The competing versions of the Florida House and Senate budgets are drastically different with respect to the amount proposed for affordable housing programs like first-time home buyer down payment assistance, rental assistance, special needs housing and emergency repairs services, among others. Each’s budget is currently about $80 billion, but the Senate dedicates $317 million to affordable housing while the House about $141 million, a difference of about $176 million.

Florida needs housing first for homeless: Where We Stand

February 5, 2016 — Central Florida has been leading the way in reducing chronic homelessness in the Sunshine State. Now a smart proposal in the Legislature would reinforce this region’s effort, and give more communities across Florida the means to follow suit. The legislation would help local governments get more homeless people off the streets — and out of tents, cars and seedy motels — into stable housing while their other needs, such as counseling and job training, are addressed. The Central Florida Commission on Homelessness has successfully adopted this strategy, known as housing first.

Editorial: Florida’s afforable-housing programs need money

February 5, 2016 — Add us to the list of groups and organizations asking the state Legislature to fully fund this year’s request for affordable housing. Last week, the Senate did the right thing by allowing full funding — about $317 million — for the SHIP/Housing Trust Fund and the State Apartment Incentive Loan (SAIL) program for next year’s budget. SHIP is the State Housing Initiatives Partnership program. It funds housing programs in all 67 counties. The SAIL money can be used to rehab apartments that desperately need repair or to build new units, that house “Florida’s most vulnerable populations, such as the frail, elderly and persons with disabilities,” the Sadowski Housing Coalition said in information they provided during a visit to the News Journal Editorial Board before the legislative session began.

Our View: Renew commitment to affordable housing

February 4, 2016 — The Florida Senate’s proposed budget for 2016-17 would help restore some trust in the Legislature’s use of funds dedicated to affordable housing. The Senate recently decided to allocate all available housing trust monies — some $317 million — to housing in the next budget year. Many Floridians may wonder: What’s the big deal? Isn’t the Legislature supposed to put a specific share of revenue from documentary stamps into housing funds? The answer is: Yes.

Editorial: Renew the commitment to affordable housing

February 2, 2016 — The Florida Senate’s proposed budget for 2016-17 would help restore some trust in the Legislature’s use of funds dedicated to affordable housing. What about the tentative budgets offered by the House of Representatives and Gov. Rick Scott? Not so much. The Senate recently decided to allocate all available housing trust monies — some $317 million — to housing in the next budget year. Many Floridians may wonder: What’s the big deal? Isn’t the Legislature supposed to put a specific share of revenue from documentary stamps into housing funds?

Read the entire Sarasota Herald-Tribune editorial.

Ted Granger: Legislature must provide housing money for struggling Floridians

January 27, 2016 — The United Way of Florida released a report on ALICE – Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed – last year, which revealed the scope of financial hardship in Florida. The report found that while 15 percent of Florida households fall beneath the poverty line, an additional 30 percent experience severe financial strain despite being active in the labor force. That means that 45 percent — 3.2 million Florida households — are struggling to support themselves and their families.

Read the entire Florida Context Op-Ed.

Affordable housing issue returns in Manatee

January 19, 2016 — A shortage of affordable housing is back  as a major issue. When the recession hit, “everybody thought the problem was solved” because of a glut of housing on the market and dropping prices, Manatee County Administrator Ed Hunzeker said Tuesday. Now, with the housing market improving and prices rising, affordable housing again has become “an issue for you to wrestle with,” he told county commissioners.

Manatee commissioners to have series of work sessions on housing

January 19, 2016 — While not responsible for building housing, Manatee County government’s role is to create an environment that is conducive for the private sector to produce affordable housing, a state housing official told commissioners Tuesday.

Local governments, which are obligated to provide housing for its entire current and anticipated population under Florida statute, can help through land use planning, permitting, financing and affordability assurances, according to Jaimie Ross, president/CEO of the Florida Housing Coalition.

Read the entire Brandenton Herald article.

Homeownership not an option for some looking to escape rent increases

January 16, 2016 — It may be more affordable to make monthly payments on a house than to rent right now, but not everyone is jumping at the opportunity. 

One reason is likely that wage increases are not keeping up with housing and rental price increases. Even as companies add back positions they had previous cut, jobs in this region aren’t paying what they once did, not since the recession flung so many into the unemployment lines. Read the entire Tampa Tribune article.

Brevard rents are on the rise

January 16, 2016 — The turning point for Jessica Dent was a looming $200 a month rent increase. After learning last year that the rent on her Indialantic townhouse would jump from $900 to $1100, the 31-year-old engineer decided to buy her own home. In October, Dent moved into her own house in Indian Harbour Beach. Read the entire Florida Today article.

Realtors Push Lawmakers to Shrink Lease Tax, Fund Affordable Housing

January 11, 2016 — Florida’s real estate industry will make sure its voice is heard as lawmakers convene Tuesday and weave through Gov. Rick Scott’s proposed $79.3 billion budget proposal, which includes a $1 billion tax-cut wish list. Backed by nearly 100 members — an association record — the Miami Association of Realtors will back a number of issues affecting the South Florida real estate community in Tallahassee. Read the entire Daily Business Review article.

State officials must show more leadership in addressing water concerns, sea level rise

January 11, 2016 — As state legislators converge on Tallahassee, the human tendency is to deal with immediate pressures and to overlook the bigger challenges just out of sight. Let’s start with this statistic: Florida is set to add almost six million new residents in almost 20 years, reports the University of Florida. Read the entire Jacksonville.com Editorial.

Editorial: What to look, hope for in 2016 legislative session starting Tuesday

January 9, 2016 — When the Florida Legislature convenes Tuesday, it begins a session that carries particular significance for Collier County. The face of Collier’s legislative delegation will change dramatically, possibly completely, as a result of the 2016 elections and redistricting. Read the entire Naples Daily News Editorial.

Don’t sweep away public housing money, lawmakers urged

January 7, 2016 — A group of 30 social service advocates, home builders, business leaders and faith-based organizations want the Legislature to spend all $324 million of housing trust fund money on housing programs this year rather than sweep a huge portion of that money into the state’s budget. Spending the money would create 32,600 jobs and provide $4.6 billion in economic stimulus to the economy, Sadowski Housing Coalition members said at a news conference Thursday. Read the entire TCPalm article.

Housing Advocates Worry About Market, Push For Full Funding Of State And Local Programs

January 7, 2016 — Home sales are rising across Florida and so is the cost of rent. Many Floridians are stuck somewhere in the middle. Now a coalition of housing advocates are calling on the state legislature to steer more money into housing programs. For years the state’s housing trust fund has been used elsewhere. Read the entire WFSU article and short video clip.

Don’t sweep away public housing money, lawmakers urged

January 7, 2016 — A group of 30 social service advocates, home builders, business leaders and faith-based organizations want the Legislature to spend all $324 million of housing trust fund money on housing programs this year rather than sweep a huge portion of that money into the state’s budget. Spending the money would create 32,600 jobs and provide $4.6 billion in economic stimulus to the economy, Sadowski Housing Coalition members said at a news conference Thursday. Read the Tampa Tribune article.

Housing advocates ask lawmakers not to sweep trust funds

January 7, 2016 — One of the state’s largest affordable housing advocates called on lawmakers Thursday to not use state funds earmarked for housing needs on other budget areas. ”More than 951,000 very low-income households in Florida — those below 50 percent of the median income — pay more than half their income on housing,” said Jaimie Ross, facilitator of the Sadowski Coalition, which is comprised of 30 groups business and advocacy groups.

Read the POLITICO article.

Editorial: With great opportunity for a prosperous 2016, one top issue emerges

January 2, 2016 — During the past week, we’ve outlined six issues so far that we believe will help guide Southwest Florida toward a prosperous 2016.

We’ve called for creating a clear strategy for economic diversification so Collier County can survive the next boom-bust cycle. We’ve urged taxpayer-supported agencies to come together on the best way to provide high-quality, yet reasonably affordable, firefighting and emergency medical response.

Legislators must step up in push for affordable housing

December 26, 2015 — The United Way of Florida released a report on ALICE — Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed — last year, which unveiled the true scope of financial hardship in Florida. The report found that while 15 percent of Florida households fall beneath the poverty line, an additional 30 percent of Florida households experience severe financial strain despite being active in the labor force. That means that 45 percent — 3.2 million Florida households — are struggling to support themselves and their families. Read the Orlando Sentinel Op-Ed.

Stop raids on housing trust funds

December 23, 2015 — Lately Florida is setting the pace for America on jobs. Figures released last week, and touted with justifiable pride by Gov. Rick Scott, show the Sunshine State led the nation in employment growth in November. But when it comes to affordable housing, Florida is lagging behind. Nearly a third of renters in the state spend more than half their incomes on housing — the largest share in the nation, according to a recent report from Enterprise Community Partners. Many of those Floridians could wind up homeless simply by missing a paycheck or suffering another financial setback. Read the Orlando Sentinel Editorial.

Jaimie Ross: Bad and good news for affordable housing in Florida

December 20, 2015 — Florida has become the nation’s toughest state for renters, with California and New York trailing closely behind. According to the recently-released “Make Room” report by Enterprise Community Partners, Florida has the largest share of renters — 31 percent — who spend more than half of their income on housing. Read the Ocala Star Banner Op-Ed.

Flat wage, hot market mean “housing crisis” in Palm Beach

December 12, 2015 — Palm Beach County’s property market has bounced back from the Great Recession, but there’s a dark side to robust price increases and a tight rental market. “We have a housing crisis,” said Jaimie Ross, head of the Florida Housing Coalition, a nonprofit based in Tallahassee. Read the Palm Beach Post article.

Guest commentary: Florida leads nation in bad, good news for affordable housing

December 10, 2015 — Florida has become the nation’s toughest state for renters, with California and New York trailing closely behind. According to the recently released “Make Room” report by Enterprise Community Partners, Florida has the largest share of renters — 31 percent — who spend more than half of their income on housing. In fact, according to the 2015 Florida Home Matters Report, more than 920,000 very low-income households, including hard-working families, the elderly, veterans and disabled Floridians living on fixed incomes, are forced to spend more than 50 percent of their income on housing. Read the Naples Daily News Op-Ed.

Fully Fund Florida’s Sadowski affordable housing program

December 10, 2015 — Gov. Rick Scott promotes a razor-sharp focus on job creation yet his state budget proposal for fiscal 2016- 2017 sweeps millions out of a housing trust fund that with a full allocation would create an estimated 32,000 jobs statewide — well-paying construction work, not minimum-wage service jobs. The Sadowski Trust Fund, established in 1992 from dedicated state revenue collected on the documentary stamp tax paid on all real estate transactions, continues to be diverted away from its mission, affordable housing, especially in lowincome neighborhoods. Read the Bradenton Herald’s Editorial.

Editorial: Invest $1 billion in crucial services 

December 6, 2015 — Florida is a low-tax state, having been ranked 48th in per capita state tax collections. Gov. Rick Scott told the Legislature last week that he wants the state to go even lower. Scott made an unusual appearance before the House Finance and Tax Committee to promote his proposal for more than $1 billion in tax cuts, all but $119 million of which are aimed at businesses. Read the Sarasota Herald-Tribune Editorial.

Editorial: Ensuring local housing is affordable

December 3, 2015 — A lack of affordable housing illustrates the inequalities that exist in Gainesville. As low-income families compete for limited housing subsidies, upscale housing complexes compete to attract the most affluent University of Florida students. New complexes offer amenities such as high-end appliances, hot tubs and even a lazy river. Read the full The Gainesville Sun Editorial.

Jaimie Ross: Florida leads in bad and good housing news

December 3, 2015 — Florida has become the nation’s toughest state for renters, with California and New York trailing closely behind. According to the recently-released “Make Room” report by Enterprise Community Partners, Florida has the largest share of renters — 31 percent — who spend more than half of their income on housing. Read the full The Gainesville Sun Op-Ed.

Housing groups seek full appropriation

November 30, 2015 — When the floods from the April 2014 storm receded, Joan LaVoie’s 900-square-foot home on John Carroll Drive, near Pensacola International Airport, was left with extensive damage. LaVoie, 61, and her husband, Robert, 65, then gutted the two-bedroom, one-bath house down to the brick walls. The two-by-fours, Sheetrock and floors all had to be ripped out and the plumbing had to be repaired. Read the full Pensacola News Journal article.

Push for affordable housing in Immokalee

November 30, 2015 — There’s a new push to provide one of the most under-served communities in Florida relief and a brighter future. Two groups have partnered together with the goal of providing the people of Immokalee a better place to live. It’s one of the few areas in Collier County where trash is allowed to build up in vacant lots. The community often gets put on the back burner compared to upscale Naples. Read the full WZVN ABC Channel 7 story.

Two groups aim to help development, housing in Immokalee

November 28, 2015 — Affordable housing and community development in Immokalee may get a boost from two groups that have partnered to help advise Collier County on ways to create a brighter future there. The National Association for Latino Community Asset Builders, also known as NALCAB, helps Latino communities attract and generate investment. It recently hired Florida Housing Coalition to help develop strategies for housing and development, said Yadira Gonzales, spokeswoman for NALCAB. Read the full Naples Daily News article.

Orlando give financial boost to ‘housing first’ homeless programs

November 26, 2015 — It’s a straightforward idea, but also a new priority for housing agencies here and across the country: To help the homeless, start by finding them homes. The “housing first” approach to homelessness recently adopted by federal agencies has been embraced by Orlando’s leaders, who approved nearly $2 million toward the effort at a City Council meeting Nov. 16. Read the full Orlando Sentinel article.

Florida has means to provide homes to those in need

November 24, 2015 — Florida leads the nation in bad and good news about affordable housing. It has become the nation’s toughest state for renters, with California and New York close behind. According to the recently released Make Room report by Enterprise Community Partners, Florida has the largest share of renters — 31 percent — who spend more than half of their income on housing. South Florida is faring the worst, with 36 percent of renters who spend more than half their income on rent. Read the full Miami Herald Op-Ed.

Naples Daily News NewsMakers- Nov. 8 Edition

November 8, 2015 — Leaders of the Florida League of Women Voters and Florida Housing Coalition discuss what’s urgent to address in the 2016 legislative session, including fracking and affordable housing. See the Naples Daily News NewsMakers video.

Editorial: Time to fully fund housing again

November 3, 2015 — State lawmakers seem distracted now with all current buzz in Tallahassee about congressional and state Senate redistricting maps, gun bills, Gov. Rick Scott’s push for more economic incentive money and so on. Don’t worry, though, they’ll get to the budget soon enough. And when they do, count on the woe-is-us refrain coming across loud and clear — despite an anticipated budget surplus for 2017 topping more than $600 million. Read the full Lakeland Ledger editorial.

Editorial: State lawmakers can help navigate Collier affordable housing crisis

October 31, 2015 — If there’s ever a time for Florida lawmakers to make sure the SHIP sails with its full complement of dollars, this is it. It’s the right course to address Southwest Florida’s affordable housing crisis. SHIP stands for the State Housing Initiatives Partnership Program. In Florida, it’s one of two affordable housing programs operated from trust funds supported by a portion of the documentary stamp tax on real estate transactions. The other is the State Apartment Incentive Loan (SAIL) program. Read the full Naples Daily News editorial.

Sarasota proceeds with Housing First strategy

October 28, 2015 — The city of Sarasota moved forward Tuesday with plans for a Housing First strategy to ending homelessness after hearing from two experts on the subject who called it the only evidence-based method available.

Jaimie Ross, president of the Florida Housing Coalition, and Susan Pourciau, the coalition’s director of homeless training and technical assistance, presented an overview of the Housing First model to commissioners who last week allocated nearly $300,000 toward a pilot program based on its principles.

Read the full Sarasota Herald-Tribune article.

Florida needs its congressional members to save HOME

October 5, 2015 — Congress is once again debating ways to avert a government shutdown and will take the country to the brink again around Dec. 11, when federal funding runs out. While the short-term continuing resolution to keep the federal government funded through Dec. 11 was needed, the return of the spending caps established by the 2011 Budget Control Act remains unaddressed. We hope Congress changes that by Dec. 11. Read the full Bradenton Herald Op-Ed.

Rents: South Florida renters face heavy burden

October 1, 2015 — Among Florida’s rental markets, South Florida imposes the heaviest financial burden, a new report shows. In Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties, 36 percent of renters spend at least half of their before-tax income on rent and utilities, according to an analysis by Enterprise Community Partners, a nonprofit housing organization based in Columbia, Md. Orlando and Daytona Beach are next at 30 percent. Read the full South Florida Sun Sentinel article.

Editorial: Find ways to make housing affordable

September 18, 2015 — An important, 28-page report released this week can be summarized in two points: 1. Sarasota County doesn’t have enough affordable housing. 2. Many workers in Sarasota County don’t earn enough to pay for housing. Some folks who read the report, or this editorial, might sarcastically state: “Thank you, Captain Obvious.” Nevertheless, the report — produced by the Florida Housing Coalition and commissioned by the Gulf Coast Community Foundation — provides information that underscores the scope of the problems and reinforces the need for multi-level solutions. Read the full Sarasota Herald-Tribune Editorial.

Business leaders discuss housing costs, labor issues

September 11, 2015 — While Sarasota County business leaders give high grades to Southwest Florida and their own prospects, a lack of affordable housing for workers may prove to be the most limiting factor on continued growth and prosperity. Read the full Sarasota Herald-Tribune Op-Ed.

Editorial: Lawmakers sweep trust funds clean

September 2, 2015 — Florida’s budgeting devices have become more sophisticated, thanks to technology, but state legislators and the governor rely on a simple tool — the broom — to balance the budget. Read the full Sarasota Herald-Tribune editorial.

Guest commentary: Funding for affordable housing comes at important time

July 5, 2015 — As you read this, property values, home prices and apartment rental rates are on the rise in Florida and, in some areas, starting to skyrocket. While this is good news for Florida’s economy, as well as the housing market, which has been limping toward recovery since the housing-bubble burst back in 2007, it is a bad omen for those looking for affordable housing. Read the full Naples Daily News Op-Ed.

POINT OF VIEW: Budget takes a step toward easing affordable housing

July 3, 2015 — As you read this, property values, home prices and apartment-rental rates are on the rise in Florida — and, in some areas, are starting to skyrocket. While this is good news for Florida’s economy — as well as the housing market, which has been limping toward recovery since the bubble burst back in 2007 — it is a bad omen for those looking for an affordable place to live. Read the full Palm Beach Post Op-Ed.

Jaimie Ross: Legislature provides vital funding for affordable housing

July 2, 2015 — Property values, home prices and apartment rental rates are on the rise in Florida and, in some areas, starting to skyrocket. While this is good news for Florida’s economy, as well as the housing market, which has been limping toward recovery since the housing-bubble burst back in 2007, it is a bad omen for those looking for affordable housing. Read the full Sarasota Herald-Tribune Op-Ed.

Letter: Affordable Housing Crisis

July 1, 2015 — As you read this, property values, home prices and apartment rental rates are on the rise in Florida and, in some areas, starting to skyrocket. While this is good news for Florida’s economy, as well as the housing market, which has been limping toward recovery since the housing-bubble burst back in 2007, it is a bad omen for those looking for affordable housing. Read the full Lakeland Ledger Letter to the Editor.

Viewpoint: Taking a positive step on housing

June 29, 2015 — As you read this, property values, home prices and apartment rental rates are on the rise in Florida and, in some areas, starting to skyrocket. While this is good news for Florida’s economy, as well as the housing market, which has been limping toward recovery since the housing-bubble burst back in 2007, it is a bad omen for those looking for affordable housing. Read the full Pensacola News Journal Op-Ed.

Funding for Affordable Housing Comes at Important Time

June 28, 2015 — As you read this, property values, home prices and apartment rental rates are on the rise in Florida and, in some areas, starting to skyrocket. While this is good news for Florida’s economy as well as the housing market, which has been limping toward recovery since the housing-bubble burst back in 2007, it is a bad omen for those looking for affordable housing. Read the full Bradenton Herald Letter to the Editor.

Sadowski Housing Coalition Cheer Record Florida Budget for Funding Affordable Housing

June 19, 2015 — Affordable housing programs received a significant boost in Florida’s record $79 billion budget passed this afternoon, says Jaimie Ross of the Sadowski Housing Coalition. In a statement issued soon after the House approved the General Appropriations Act of 2015-16, Ross, who serves as organizer of the Sadowski Coalition and president of the Florida Housing Coalition, celebrated the $175 million from Florida’s housing trust funds toward housing. Read the full SaintPetersBlog.

Summit underscores the challenges of maintaining Pasco’s housing stock

May 13, 2015 — On Dec. 10, at the Elfers Senior Center, an Affordable Housing Summit was held to discuss the affordable housing needs of Pasco County. The county must update its new local housing assistance plan in 2015 for the State Housing Initiatives Partnership program, also called SHIP. It was important that information be gathered about the housing conditions in the community, and what the people of our county need. Read the full Tampa Bay Times editorial.

Affordable Housing Hard to find in Southwest Florida

April 12, 2015 —More Southwest Florida families are struggling to afford basic housing, a trend that could cripple the economy’s long-term health. A lack of affordable housing was exacerbated during the economic recovery by rapidly rising home prices and swelling apartment rents, at a time when worker wages have been shrinking. Read the full Sarasota Herald-Tribune article.

Funding Under Threat: Saving Affordable Housing

March 28, 2015 — Florida lawmakers are not making many new friends these days with their handling of Amendment 1, the constitutional measure designed to promote the conservation of the state’s increasingly fragile natural resources. Read the full Lakeland Ledger article.

Florida Avoids Staging Affordable Housing vs. Environment Battle

March 24, 2015 — Affordable housing groups in Florida faced an unlikely threat in the past couple of months. What began as a voter-approved increase in funding to conserve ecologically sensitive land and improve water quality almost worsened the Sunshine State’s housing crisis, until a last-minute reprieve last week. Read the full Next City article.

Water bill splits House and Senate, but for how long?

March 12, 2015 — The House and Senate are drafting drastically different plans on how to spend Amendment 1 money that could only complicate efforts to come up with a comprehensive water policy. Read the full Miami Herald article.

Transportation, Housing Funds Split Senate, House

March 12, 2015 — Transportation and affordable-housing proponents remain concerned about a Senate proposal that would strip money from transportation and housing trust funds to help meet the requirements of a new land-and-water constitutional amendment. Read the full Sunshine State News article.

Senate, House begin identifying plans to pay for Amendment 1

March 12, 2015 — The House and Senate are crafting separate bills that take very different approaches to finding $750 million for the environment, a move that is required under a constitutional amendment passed by voters in November. Read the full Naples Daily News article.

Land and water conservation could come at expense of transportation, affordable-housing, advocates fear

March 12, 2015 — Advocates for funding transportation and affordable-housing projects are concerned about losing money as the Florida Senate considers how to pay for the voter-mandated changes in the way land and water conservation is funded by the state. Read the full Florida Times-Union article.

Funding Fight Splits Florida House, Senate

March 12, 2015 — Transportation and affordable-housing proponents remain concerned about a Senate proposal that would strip money from transportation and housing trust funds to help meet the requirements of a new land-and-water constitutional amendment. Read the full Politics in Polk article.

 

Lawmakers split on money for transportation, housing

March 12, 2015 — Transportation and affordable-housing proponents remain concerned about a Senate proposal that would strip money from transportation and housing trust funds to help meet the requirements of a new land-and-water constitutional amendment. Read the full Palm Beach Post story.

Amendment 1 Framework Almost Done

March 12, 2015 — Lawmakers moved a step closer Wednesday to dividing up more than $750 million to meet the conservation demands of Amendment 1. The House and Senate are on a collision course over affordable housing and its piece of the pie. Read the full WFSU Radio story.

 

Affordable housing, transportation at odds with Senate plan on Amendment 1

March 12, 2015 — As is often the case early in session, the House and Senate are worlds apart, this time on Amendment 1. Approved by 75 percent of the voters last year, Amendment 1 is expected to raise between $300 million and $500 million a year for projects intended to preserve environmentally sensitive land and protect and improve water quality. It’s a constitutionally guaranteed revenue source that taps documentary stamp taxes. Read the full Tampa Bay Times- The Buzz blog.

 

Transportation, affordable housing at odds with Senate’s Amendment 1 plan

March 11, 2015 — As is often the case early in session, the House and Senate are worlds apart, this time on Amendment 1. Approved by 75 percent of the voters last year, Amendment 1 is expected to raise between $300 million and $500 million a year for projects intended to preserve environmentally sensitive land and protect and improve water quality. It’s a constitutionally guaranteed revenue source that taps documentary stamp taxes. Read the full Naked Politics – Miami Herald blog.

 

State Legislature: Off and Running

February 28, 2015 — May the bipartisan bonhomie that a small group of Miami-Dade state lawmakers exhibited during a visit with the Editorial Board be infectious. It’s that time of year again — the members of the Florida Legislature are about to take their seats in Tallahassee and conduct the state’s business. And to be clear, it’s none of the state’s business where its transgender residents want to go to the bathroom, one of the sillier, intrusive and time-wasting initiatives on tap. Read the full Miami Herald editorial.

Affordable Housing vs The Environment

February 27, 2015 — While the suits in the Capitol shift through the eye-glazing minutia of documentary stamp taxes and Amendment 1, a retired school bus driver sits a few miles away in his new manufactured home. Read the full WFSU.com story.

This Week in Florida Politics

February 27, 2015 — This week at the state Capitol, we learned that Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam was a bit more concerned about how Gerald Bailey left the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and in preparation for the 2015 legislative session, we had some fun with numbers. Read the full St. Petersblog Blog.

That day in Politics – Feb. 26

February 26, 2015 — Friday we got another chapter in an on-going series about the ouster of Gerald Bailey. The Tampa Bay Times secured a draft of an opinion piece Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam had prepared last month about the abrupt dismissal of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement director. Read the full St. Petersblog Blog.

Housing Funds Getting Slacked Because of Amendment 1?

February 26, 2015 — Affordable housing funds could be taking a hit this year, and it could be because of environmental amendment 1. But both sides say that isn’t fair. Theo Anderson was down on his luck, inured, and living with two children in a run down home before state housing assistance helped him get back on his feet. “People need help, cause, you know, you never know when a hard time is going to come upon you,” he said. The state money used to help Anderson and others could be getting raided again. Business and faith groups, builders, and the Florida Chamber stood with housing advocates to tell the legislature the money is better spent in its own program. But the passage of environmental Amendment 1 could be changing that. Read the full WCTV.tv story.

Affordable Housing Funds May Take Hit in Florida

February 26, 2015 — Affordable housing funds could be taking a hit this year and it could be because of environmental Amendment 1, but both sides say that isn’t fair. Amendment 1 advocates agreed that there is plenty of money in the tax pool to continue to fund affordable housing fully and provide money to the environmental programs. Read the full WJXT Channel 4 story.

Amendment 1 Plan Draws Affordable Housing Concerns

February 19, 2015 — A Senate committee Wednesday approved changes to a number of state trust funds to designate a single pot of money for a new land-and-water constitutional amendment, despite concerns that affordable-housing and transportation programs could face cuts. Read the full WTXL.com article.

Senate bill could cut affordable housing funds

February 19, 2015 — It was during her graduate program in clinical counseling at Troy University that Sweneda Berrian first gave serious thought to buying her own home. In December of last year, that dream became a reality thanks in part to the First Time Homebuyers Program through the State Housing Initiatives Partnership (SHIP) that provided $5,000 toward her down payment. Read the full Pensacola News Journal article.

Groups vie for scraps of real estate tax

February 19, 2015 — When 75 percent of voters approved a land conservation amendment in November, it was hailed as a win by environmentalists excited by the prospect of hundreds of millions more dollars for Florida’s environment. The estimated $757 million that Amendment 1 will steer toward things like conservation land purchases and maintenance of existing state lands, though, has to come from somewhere. The amendment requires that 33 percent of the roughly $2.3 billion collected each year from real estate taxes be spent on the environment. Read the full Tampa Tribune article.

Editorial: Not either-or

February 18, 2015 — The Florida Senate has revealed its plan to implement Amendment 1, the state constitutional mandate requiring one-third of real estate documentary tax revenues be spent on conservation measures. There is plenty of massaging and deal-cutting left, but even so we hope this trial balloon gets deep-sixed quickly. If not, advocates of affordable housing, both in Tallahassee and locally, and those who benefit from their efforts, are right to worry. Read the full Ocala Star Banner Editorial.

Amendment One’s Proposed Structure Worries Affordable Housing Advocates

February 9, 2015 —Florida voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment last November securing funds for the environment. Now, affordable housing advocates are worried this mandate could mean fewer dollars for low income families. There is a series of bills working their way through legislative committees that map out Amendment One. One bill said the state’s conservation program will take a third of something called a documentary stamp tax. Read the full WGCU broadcast.

Troubled waters for housing advocates, Senate environmental committee chair

February 2, 2015 — What a tangled web we weave when we practice to achieve (even admirable) public policy goals via constitutional amendment. That’s the situation that presumably millions of Florida voters who support both Amendment 1’s expansion of funding for water and land conservation and affordable housing programs like the Sadowski housing trust fund, says Florida Housing Coalition President Jaimie Ross. Read the full St. Petersblog Blog.

In environmental mandate, trouble for affordable housing?

February 1, 2015 — As Florida’s economy stirs back to life, two growth-related concerns — protecting the environment and promoting affordable housing — are back in the spotlight, and state leaders say a voter-approved mandate to increase funding for one priority could hurt the other. Environmental programs got a huge boost from the November passage of a constitutional amendment that requires one-third of all funds collected from state taxes on real estate transactions to be spent on conservation efforts. Read the fulSarasota Herald-Tribune article.

Editorial: Tallahassee Raid

January 22, 2015 — Last November, Florida voters delivered a message on environmental protection so clear that not even the solons in Tallahassee could doubt its meaning. Three of every four voters supported Amendment 1, which mandated funding to help preserve and protect springs, rivers and the aquifer, the Everglades and beaches, open recreation lands and ranches — even geological sites. Read the full Ocala Star Banner editorial.

Editorial: Affordable Housing

January 16, 2015 — With newly passed Amendment 1 getting all the attention, it’s easy to forget that affordable housing is funded from the same pot of money that now has a portion dedicated to land conservation. The Sadowski Act of 1992 increased the documentary stamp tax on real estate transactions to fund affordable housing. The increase was backed by real estate and construction interests, who saw that the spending would create jobs in their industries. But in recent years, the Legislature has raided the Sadowski housing trust funds for other purposes. Read the full Gainesville Sun editorial.

Affordable-housing gap widens

January 9, 2015 — In 2010, the Sarasota Housing Authority accepted applications for vouchers that help pay the rent for people with very low incomes. During a two-week span, 3,500 individuals or families applied for the aid. The authority did not accept applications for the next four years, because the need for affordable housing exceeded the supply and federal funding for vouchers was stagnant. Read the full Sarasota Herald-Tribune editorial.

Editorial: Affordable Housing

January 5, 2015 — The combination of low wages and high housing costs creates a financial struggle for many Floridians. To the state’s credit, though, it had the foresight, 22 years ago, to create an effective tool for boosting the supply of affordable housing. That tool is known as the Sadowski Housing Trust Funds: a pool of money to be used throughout the state to finance or subsidize construction, renovations or the purchase of homes and apartments in a price range geared toward everyday workers. The funds also help to create and preserve housing for the elderly, the disabled and the homeless. Read the full Ocala Star Banner editorial.

Tallahassee, embrace full funding for Florida’s affordable housing act

January 4, 2015 — Too many middle-class and lower-income families are struggling to make ends meet, and housing costs are a major reason. More than 900,000 very low income families and seniors and disabled Floridians on fixed incomes spend over half their budget on maintaining a roof over their heads, teetering on the edge of homelessness. Many Manatee County residents cannot afford decent and safe structures. Read the full Bradenton Herald editorial.

Editorial: Florida needs to recommit to affordable housing

December 26, 2014 — Rising real estate prices are good for Florida’s overall economy, but they don’t help some middle-class and lower-income families who are struggling to keep a roof over their head. The best way for Tallahassee to combat the growing disillusionment that the American Dream is over and that government doesn’t care: The Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott need to fully recommit to affordable housing programs and stop making excuses about why they can’t. Read the full Tampa Bay Times editorial.

Editorial: Fund affordable housing

December 21, 2014 — The combination of low wages and high housing costs creates a financial struggle for many Floridians. To the state’s credit, though, it had the foresight, 22 years ago, to create an effective tool for boosting the supply of affordable housing. That tool is known as the Sadowski housing trust funds: a pool of money to be used throughout the state to finance or subsidize construction, renovation or purchase of homes and apartments in a price range geared toward everyday workers — the kind we all depend on. The funds also help to create and preserve housing for the elderly, the disabled and the homeless. Read the full Sarasota Herald-Tribune editorial.

Editorial: Economic Survival

November 25, 2014 — Gov. Rick Scott recently announced that his second inauguration will be preceded next month by “job jamborees.” The events, Scott stated, will highlight Florida businesses and “celebrate our economic progress while focusing on the work we have left to do in the next four years.” He added that his administration’s focus will remain on “three things — jobs, jobs and jobs.” The governor’s attention to job growth has been good for his political career, the state and many of its residents. Yet a recent report from the United Way of Florida offers a stark reminder that having a job does not ensure economic survival. Read the full Gainesville Sun editorial.

New rentals to provide stability for struggling vets

November 15, 2014 — For some military veterans facing long-term disabilities, an affordable place to live could make the difference between financial stability and a life on the street. In Pinellas County, where a disproportionate number of veterans and their families wind up without a permanent home, a new affordable rental community may offer lasting help for those struggling to make ends meet. Read the full St. Petersburg Tribune article.

Conservation amendment a question of budget priorities

October 18, 2014 — Support for a ballot proposal that would set aside money for water and land conservation is so strong that many opponents are all but resigned to its passage. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t worried about its impact on Florida’s budget. Read the full Tallahassee Democrat article.

Jaimie Ross: Local agencies facilitate housing aid

August 29, 2014 — It was so refreshing to read John Hielscher’s article in Monday’s paper, “Housing aid funds likely to go fast.” Until the 2014 Legislature appropriated the bulk of Florida’s housing money for housing, it seemed that most articles about housing were a depressing mix of how extreme the need for funds is and that help was likely not on the way. Mr. Hielscher’s article made a number of great points about the State Housing Initiatives Partnership program that too often go unnoticed. I offer the following to add to his points. Read the full Op-Ed piece in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Rising Orlando home prices chip away at affordability

August 8, 2014 — Orlando remains one of the nation’s more affordable housing markets, but the pinch of rising home prices on incomes is evident in a new study released Thursday. Orlando-area home buyers in May spent 17 to 20 percent of their earnings on house payments, which was in line with an average of 19 percent for 1,200 metro areas reviewed by the real-estate research firm RealtyTrac. Read the full Orlando Sentinelarticle.

New Florida law aids advocates for homeless

June 30, 2014 — A new law going into effect today is aimed at providing a steady source of funding for groups fighting homelessness. The law (HB 979), which state legislators passed unanimously last session, was approved by Gov. Rick Scott last month. Among other things, it encourages homeless advocacy organizations to apply for challenge grants, depending on population size and ability to match funds, either in cash or in-kind contributions. Read the full Tampa Tribune article.

Florida Housing Coalition Report Demonstrates Economic Impact, Leverage

June 2, 2014 — A consistent challenge for housing trust fund advocates is explaining the complex subjects of the economic impact of affordable housing development and how local and state investment leverage additional public and private funds. Making the argument well requires being credible, compelling and easy to understand.  The Florida Housing Coalition’s 2014 Home Matters Report includes an excellent section on economic impact and leverage that provides some ideas and examples from which to draw for fellow advocates. Read the full Center for Community Change- Housing Trust Fund Project blog.

State eases ‘sweep’ of housing funds

May 12, 2014 — The Legislature this year dedicated a greater share of affordable housing money from the Sadowski Housing Trust than it had in recent years, according to home builders. The fund, which comes from documentary stamps on real estate sales, has long been used by state lawmakers to pay for projects other than affordable housing. This year, lawmakers agreed to spend $167 million from the fund for affordable housing. Read the full Orlando Sentinel article.

Miami Rents are wildly unaffordable for average residents

April 16, 2014 — The old rule of thumb is that you shouldn’t pay more than 30 percent of your income on rent and utilities, but in Miami that’s becoming a near-impossible guideline to stick to. A new Zillow analysis shows that the median rent (not including utilities) in Miami is equal to about 43 percent of the median income — an all-time high and one of the highest rates in the nation. Read the full Miami New Times article.

State budget surplus means no need to raid housing trust funds

April 16, 2014 — Florida Senate and House conferees will begin budget negotiations in earnest next week. Surprisingly, among the things to be reconciled is a huge gap in the amount of the documentary stamp tax each chamber has earmarked for affordable housing. Read the full Palm Beach Post op-ed.

State must rebuild housing funds

April 14, 2014 — The Florida Legislature is no longer burdened by a state budget deficit. In the Florida Senate, leadership has restored the state and local affordable housing trust funds to normal operation, returning to local government their share of the local government trust funds through the State Housing Initiatives Partnership program. Now we need the House to do the same. Read the full Lakeland Ledger op-ed.

Viewpoint: House should support state housing money

April 11, 2014 — The Florida Senate’s budget appropriates all of the housing trust fund money generated by the documentary stamp projected for fiscal year 2014-15 to Florida’s housing programs. What’s needed now is for the Florida House to do the same. The Senate’s proposed budget appropriates $226.13 million from the housing trust funds for the successful SHIP and SAIL programs, while the House proposes only $89.3 million. Read the full Pensacola News Journal op-ed.

Florida’s housing programs need ample state funding

April 8, 2014 — The Florida Senate’s budget appropriates all of the housing trust fund monies generated by the documentary stamp projected for fiscal year 2014-15 to Florida’s housing programs. What’s needed now is for the Florida House to do the same. The Senate’s proposed budget appropriates $226.13 million from the housing trust funds for the successful State Housing Initiatives Partnership and State Apartment Incentive Loan programs, while the House proposes a total of only $89.3 million. Read the full South Florida Sun Sentinel op-ed.

Guest columnist: Fully fund housing porgrams

April 6, 2014 — The Florida Senate’s budget appropriates all of the housing trust fund monies generated by the documentary stamp projected for fiscal year 2014-15 to Florida’s housing programs. What’s needed now is for the Florida House to do the same. The Senate’s proposed budget appropriates $226.13 million from the housing trust funds for the successful SHIP and SAIL programs, while the House proposes a total of only $89.3 million. Read the full Sarasota Herald-Tribune op-ed.

Opinion Roundup: Protect Trust Fund Revenue

March 24, 2014 — In a budget crisis that is justifiable. And the Legislature needs some budget flexibility. But this habit has gotten out of control. Florida TaxWatch, the nonpartisan watchdog group, suggests that transparency would help, recommending that a separate bill be filed for every trust fund that is swept into the general fund. That might lead to a discussion of the usefulness of the fund itself. Read the full Florida Times-Union editorial.

Affordable housing cut in House budget that’s big on transportation, public safety

March 18, 2014 — The House released details on its $11.5 billion budget on transportation, tourism and economic development on Tuesday, and it’s heavy on spending for road projects, public safety and cultural projects, but skimpy on spending for affordable housing. Read the full Tampa Bay Times article.

House budget would sweep affordable housing funds

March 18, 2014 — Despite pressure from low-income housing advocates, the construction industry and business lobbies like the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the House transportation and economic development budget proposal released Tuesday would sweep $136.8 million in affordable housing trust fund money into general revenue funds. The total amount of revenues projected for the trust fund is projected to be $226.1 million for the 2014-2015 fiscal year. The House Transportation and Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee proposal would provide $44.65 million for the State Housing Initiatives Partnership, which provides grants to local governments for affordable housing projects, and $44.65 million for the State Apartment Incentive Loan program, a similar program providing low-interest loans for such projects. Read the full Florida Current article.

House Florida’s Homelessness: Reliable Funding Needed

March 17, 2014 — Florida has tens of thousands of homeless people but no dedicated state funding source for programs that help them stabilize and improve their lives. State lawmakers — meeting for their annual 60-day session in Tallahassee — should change that picture for the better. Read the full Lakeland Ledger editorial.

An assessment of the governor’s budget

March 12, 2014 — So when people do ask for more funds, Scott will occasionally ask them what they would cut. Usually there is silence. That’s one reason Scott deserves credit for putting the state’s fiscal house in order. And the longtime businessman did follow through on promises by cutting almost 3,000 regulations, paying down $3.5 billion in state debt and paying back another $3.5 billion borrowed from the federal government for unemployment assistance. Read the full Florida Times-Union editorial.

Editorial Lawmakers must help homeless

March 11, 2014 — People for decades have flocked to Florida. Many envision opportunity along streets of gold, warmed by eternal sunshine. Yet, gobsmacked by the global economic crash and the plodding recovery, rising numbers of Floridians have learned, sadly, life on Florida’s streets hardly is golden. Read the full Orlando Sentinel editorial.

Dedicate funding for homeless

March 11, 2014 — Florida has tens of thousands of homeless people but no dedicated state funding source for programs that help them stabilize and improve their lives. State lawmakers — meeting for their annual session in Tallahassee — should change that picture for the better. Read the full Sarasota Herald-Tribune article.

Editorial: Put SHIP money back where it belongs

March 5, 2014 — As our state legislators return to Tallahassee and hash out partisan politics — hopefully better than their brethren in Washington, D.C. — here’s an idea whose time has come … and gone … and needs to come again. In 1992, the legislature passed a law called the Sadowski Act. It was named for former Florida Secretary of Community Affairs Bill Sadowski, who was killed in an airplane crash here, attempting to land at the St. Augustine Airport. Read the full St. Augustine Record article.

Raised real estate taxes not used for their purpose

Feb. 25, 2014 — In 1992, state lawmakers raised the doc stamp tax on real estate transactions from 60 cents to 70 cents on every $100. The cash was to be used for affordable housing. But when the recession hit, lawmakers started using the money for everything but housing. Advocates say it’s now time for the state to fulfill its promise. Read the full WJXT News Channel 4 Jacksonville report.

Housing Not So Affordable

Feb. 25, 2014 — In 1992 state lawmakers raised the d.o.c. stamp tax on real estate transactions from 60 to 70 cents on every 100 dollars. The cash to be used for affordable housing. But when the great recession hit, lawmakers started using the money for everything but housing. Advocates say it’s now time for the state to fulfill its promise. Read the full WJHG News Channel 7 Panama City report.

Advocates Want Lawmakers To Spend Housing Trust Fund On Housing Projects

Feb. 25, 2014 — A group of Realtors, home builders and advocates for homeless families wants the money from a special housing trust fund to be used for its intended purpose. But part of the governor’s proposed tax break plan pads the budget with cash from the state’s trust funds. Members of the Sadowski Housing Coalition want lawmakers to spend the state’s housing trust fund on housing only. Officials expect that’ll be about $3-million this year. Florida Housing Coalition President Jaimie Ross said  her group understands the government has needed to use some of the trust fund dollars in the past to balance the budget, but this year the state is expecting a surplus. Read the full WFSU report.

Realtors, homebuilders call on lawmakers not to raid affordable housing trust fund

Feb. 25, 2014 — Groups representing homeless advocates, realtors, homebuilders, federal housing program administrators and other organizations banded together Tuesday to push legislators not to sweep the affordable housing trust fund this year. Ranging from business lobbies like the Florida Chamber of Commerce to legal aid groups like the Florida Legal Services, the Sadowski Housing Coalition is hoping a larger budget surplus will prevent lawmakers from raiding the trust fund this year, something they’ve only done twice in 12 years. “We do come together for one purpose — to ensure the housing trust funds are used for housing,” said Jaimie Ross, president of the Florida Housing Coalition. Read the full Florida Current article.

Housing affordability gap is growing

Feb. 20, 2014 — The American dream of home ownership has become drastically less affordable for many working families in Southwest Florida, new figures show. A trio of reports released this week say the cost of real estate is drifting further out of reach for potential buyers earning median salaries — with general housing expenses rising well beyond stagnant worker wages. Read the full Sarasota Herald-Tribune article.

Legislature should stop taking from proven housing program

Feb. 10, 2014 —  The State Housing Incentives Partnership program (SHIP) is Florida’s nationally acclaimed model for using a dedicated revenue source to effectively and efficiently meet community housing needs. It has a proven track record for performance, transparency and accountability. Unfortunately, it also has a record of being swept into general revenue when the state faces a budget deficit. The good news is that Florida is not facing a budget deficit in 2014. Read the full Tampa Tribune Op-Ed.

Guest column: State should fund affordable housing fund

Feb. 6, 2014 —  The State Housing Incentives Partnership program (SHIP) is Florida’s nationally acclaimed model for using a dedicated revenue source to effectively and efficiently meet community housing needs. It has a proven track record for performance, transparency and accountability. Unfortunately, it also has a record of being swept into general revenue when the state faces a budget deficit. The good news is that Florida is not facing a budget deficit in 2014. Read the full Florida Times Union Op-Ed.

Our Opinion: No More Sweeps Let the state’s affordable housing trust fund do its job

Jan. 31, 2014 —  Imagine this: In working out your family budget, you pledge one August to set aside $10 a week expressly to help buy new school clothes for the kids each year.Next August rolls around, and you have $520 in the special jar. So you spend $150 of it on clothes for the kids, and use the rest on groceries and gas. Read the full Tallahassee Democrat editorial.

St. Petersburg gives initial OK for low-cost housing for vets

Dec. 6, 2013 —  A 97-unit apartment complex that will offer low-cost housing for military veterans got initial approval from the city this week, one of only a few affordable housing projects to gain traction in recent years. Read the full Tampa Tribune article.

Homeless for the Holidays: Why Santa may not find over 1 million kids

Homelessness is one of the most visible signs of our country’s affordable housing shortage but the most vulnerable and tragic victims of this crisis are NOT the adults you see on your streets, in your parks and under freeway overpasses.  They are the children who have no stable place to call home, and new data from the U.S. Dept of Education reveals there are 1.17 million of these children. What’s worse, the numbers have been going up steadily in most states since 2007. 

Read the complete article on the new data from the Partnership for Sustainable Communities.

St. Pete vet receives rehabbed home, presented Congressional Gold Medal

Nov. 8, 2013 — Officials revealed a rehabbed home for a St. Petersburg, Fla. veteran on Friday. Mr. William C. Scott was one of the original Montford Point Marines, the first black unit of the U.S. Marines Corp. Scott also served in World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam. In recent years, his home had fallen into disrepair. At 87, Scott needed help fixing up his home, saving it from code violations. With help from volunteers and donations, the state’s Housing Initiative Partnership was able to help him make the needed repairs. Friday, Scott was able to return to his newly rehabbed home.

View the full WFLA News Channel 8 video with photos.

Lawmakers visit shelters, affordable housing on mini-bus tour

Nov. 21, 2013 — Walmart worker Melissa McComish never dreamed she could afford to own a home. But with the help of a state trust for low-income housing, the Clearwater single mom with two children obtained a no-interest loan and bought a trim three-bedroom house with a back yard. “It’s the biggest blessing ever,” said McComish, 46, adding that she used to be homeless. “I never could have gotten here without help.” Read the full Tampa Bay Times article.

Low income housing advocates fight for funding

Nov. 20, 2013 — Advocates for low income housing are worried funding for the program is at risk so they’re fighting to keep it. State lawmakers and their aides loaded on two buses Tuesday and Wednesday for a tour of low income properties built in Pinellas County. Read the full Bay News 9 article.

Editorial: Affordable Housing Help

Nov. 19, 2013 — Whether the economy is good or bad, the need for affordable housing never goes away. The country — and Marion County in particular — learned that lesson painfully over the past decade. No one should forget it now that the economy is slowly recovering. Read the full Ocala Star Banner editorial.

County honors SHIP Director

Nov. 15, 2013 — Gadsden County’s State Housing Initiatives Partnership Program (SHIP) director Phyllis Moore received an award at last week’s county commission meeting from the Florida Housing Coalition (FHC) as an Outstanding SHIP Administrator. Jaimie Ross, president of FHC, presented Moore with the award saying that Moore was the go-to-person for how a SHIP program should be run. Read the full Havana Herald article.

Lawmakers to take mini-bus tour of low-income housing in Pinellas

Nov. 15, 2013 — For three months, advocates for low-income housing have contacted bay area lawmakers asking them to join a two-hour mini-tour of housing projects that received state money. The advocates asked lawmakers about their availability, called their offices and mailed formal invitations. They scheduled two tour options: one on Tuesday in North Pinellas and another on Wednesday in south Pinellas. Read the full Tampa Bay Times article.

Housing that’s affordable

Nov. 14, 2013 — Whether the economy is good or bad, the need for affordable housing never goes away. The country — and Southwest Florida in particular — learned that lesson painfully over the past decade. No one should forget it now that the economy is slowly recovering. Read the full Sarasota Herald Tribune editorial.

BoCC honors service, ponders poverty

Nov. 14, 2013 — At the Nov. 5 meeting of the Gadsden County Board of County Commissioners (BoCC), Jaime Ross, President of the Florida Housing Coalition (FHC), presented Quincy’s Phyllis Moore with an award, honoring her work with the State Housing Initiative Partnership Program (SHIP). SHIP provides funds to local governments to encourage the creation of partnerships that produce and preserve affordable homeownership for lower income families. Read the full Gadsden County Times article.

State of Florida ‘SHIP’ Program

Oct. 23, 2013 — It sounds almost too good to be true. A program that helps people pay for home repairs, or even down payments. It’s called “SHIP”, or State Housing Initiatives Partnership. Laura Hussey “Nikki Smalls doesn’t have a lot of time to enjoy this beautiful back porch. She works full time, supporting her three kids and her elderly mother. Read the full WEAR-TV article.

Sorting out Florida’s surplus

Oct. 15, 2013 — Economic recovery and increases in key tax revenues are helping Florida build a budget surplus, so state legislators and Gov. Rick Scott are looking for taxes and fees to reduce or eliminate. Read the full Sarasota Herald Tribune editorial.

Florida’s affordable housing fund waits for Legislature to revive it

Sept. 28, 2013 — The State Housing Incentives Partnership program (SHIP) is Florida’s nationally admired model for using a dedicated revenue source to effectively and efficiently meet local housing needs. It has a proven track record for performance, transparency and accountability, and is the subject of appropriations in the upcoming legislative session. Read the full Miami Herald Op-Ed.

SHIP funds available for housing assistance

Sept. 19, 2013 —Mayo — Suwannee River Economic Council (SREC) Director of Housing and Transportation Matt Pearson recently spoke about the State Housing Initiative Partnership (SHIP) and some changes in state requirements this year. Read the full Suwannee Democrat article.

The Tax-Cut Bandwagon

Sept. 17, 2013 —After years of belt-tightening that saw Florida lawmakers slash funding for state services and repeatedly renege on legislative commitments made in earlier sessions, the state is projecting a surplus of $850 million for 2014-2015 budget. Great news — especially for anyone in elected office dealing with sagging poll numbers and running for another term. Read the full Miami Herald Editorial.

Pasco Community Development Division wins state award for affordable housing program

Sept. 13, 2013 —TAMPA, FL – Pasco County’s Community Development Division was among several programs across the state that received 2013 State Housing Initiatives Partnership Program Awards for its efforts to provide affordable housing. Read the full Tampa Bay Times article.

Detert Honored

Sept. 10, 2013 —State Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, was honored today by the Florida Housing Coalition for her work on behalf of foster children. The coalition gave Detert an award at a statewide housing conference in Orlando. She was honored for the passage of a law that will allow foster children to remain in state care until they reach the age of 21. The Senate voted unanimously to name the law the “Nancy C. Detert Common Sense and Compassion Independent Living Act.” Read the full HT Politics article.

Indianatown Nonprofit Housing Director Donna Carman Honored

Sept. 11, 2013 —The Sadowski Housing Coalition congratulated this year’s Housing Leadership Award recipient Donna Carman, executive director of Indiantown Non Profit Housing, Inc. (INPHI), which was announced during the opening plenary for the Florida Housing Coalition’s (FHC) 26th Annual Statewide Affordable Housing Conference in Orlando. Read the full TC Palm article.

National Fair Housing Alliance, Fair Housing Continuum, Inc., and Wells Fargo Announce Partnership To Rebuild Homeownership Opportunities in 19 Cities

WASHINGTON, DC and ORLANDO, FL – Today the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) and 13 of its member organizations, including the Fair Housing Continuum, Inc. of Melbourne, FL., announced a collaboration with Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. that will provide funds in 19 cities to foster homeownership, assist with rebuilding neighborhoods of color impacted by the foreclosure crisis, and promote diverse, inclusive communities. Read the full press release.

HUD Announces Resolution of REO Issues with Wells Fargo

Collaboration will Focus on Investment in Communities WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced today that Wells Fargo Bank N.A., the National Fair Housing Alliance, 13 private fair housing organizations and Acting Assistant Secretary Bryan Greene have reached an agreement through which Wells Fargo will invest in efforts designed to help improve housing in minority neighborhoods that have been hard hit by the foreclosure crisis. As part of the agreement, Wells Fargo has committed to invest a total of $39 million in 45 communities across the country through various programs to support homeownership, neighborhood stabilization, property rehabilitation and housing development. Read the full HUD press release.

Jaimie Ross: Legislature takes ‘trust’ out of housing trusts

By the close of the 2013 legislative session, Florida lawmakers passed Senate Bill 1852, legislation that appropriated approximately $200 million in attorney general mortgage settlement funds. The attorney general is to be commended for her leadership role in obtaining the bank settlement and, moreover, for her insistence that the discretionary portion of the settlement funds be used only for housing related purposes. The Legislature is to be commended for using a portion of those funds for the State Apartment Incentive Loan Program (SAIL) and State Housing Initiative Partnership Program (SHIP). Read the full Sarasota Herald-Tribune editorial.

Housing costs overwhelm South Florida working families

South Florida continues to lead the nation with the highest percentage of working families struggling to pay housing costs. The region has had this distinction for four consecutive years, according to a report last week. Roughly 41 percent of 730,777 low- and moderate-income households across Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties are spending more than half of their incomes on housing, the Center for Housing Policy says. Analysts say families should devote no more than 30 percent of their pay to housing costs. Read the full Sun-Sentinel article.

Legislature passes $200 million foreclosure settlement spending package

Although lawmakers won’t vote on the $74.5 billion budget until Thursday at the earliest, $200 million has already been appropriated. The House unanimously passed SB 1852 Tuesday, spending $200 million that is part of a multistate settlement with five large banks for fraudulent foreclosure practices. The package contains spending on affordable housing programs favored by the Senate, and funding for Habitat for Humanity and college dorm plans favored by the House. Read the full The Florida Current article.

Restore affordable-housing funds

OUR OPINION: Legislature shouldn’t raid, undercut successful Sadowski Trust We’ve seen this sleight of hand before. Two decades ago, state legislators used money from the Florida Lottery to supplant education funding — not, as they had promised, to supplement it. Lawmakers seem ready to do the same thing with funds that, for decades, have been used successfully to provide quality affordable housing for Floridians and to encourage developers to build homes for low-income residents. This session, lawmakers propose to snatch an estimated $204 million destined for the State Housing Initiative Program (SHIP) and the State Incentive Loan Program (SAIL) and put the money into general revenue. These programs are funded by the Sadowski Trust Fund, whose money, generated by a portion of closing costs from property sales, has been targeted before. Read the full The Miami Herald Op-Ed.

Despite tax-fattened coffers, lawmakers still raid housing fund

TALLAHASSEE – Despite a cash-flush budget that has policymakers considering a grab-bag of corporate and stadium incentives, Florida lawmakers are still raiding a fund created two decades ago to help provide low-income housing. And housing advocates are concerned that Florida’s multibillion-dollar foreclosure settlement – which is being used in part to fund housing programs this year – is masking that cash raid. Both the House and Senate budgets retain a habit developed a decade ago: diverting hundreds of millions from a trust fund dedicated to providing affordable housing and rental assistance. Read the full Orlando Sentinel article.

Trust fund distrust

When you make a promise, keep it — especially when it involves taxpayers’ money. This simple rule is one legislators conveniently forget when they balance the state budget by dipping into trust funds that were set up for other purposes. Like azaleas blooming on the Capitol grounds, it’s one of Tallahassee’s enduring spring rituals — but not so pretty. Each of these trust funds is composed of revenues that are supposed to be aimed at specific purposes, ranging from health care to affordable housing. The revenue sources for the trust funds are not arbitrary. Instead, they evolved in a way that rationally connects the fee payers to the benefits of the trust fund. Read the full Herald-Tribune article.

Florida House, Senate divided on use for mortgage settlement funds

The Florida House and Senate are split on how to use $200 million received as part of a multistate mortgage foreclosure settlement with five major lenders. The main spending panel in the Senate will take up a proposed committee bill (SB-7146) on Wednesday that would divide the money into a number of areas, including some of the traditional affordable housing programs already up and running in the state. Read the full South Florida Business Journal article.

Struggling homeowners stiffed by Florida Legislature

Florida’s Legislature is once again planning to violate the public trust by raiding the trust fund established to create more affordable housing, diverting $200 million to such priorities as teacher pay raises and health care. At the same time, lawmakers plan to spend $200 million from the state’s share of a national mortgage settlement over bank foreclosure and mortgage abuses on things other than aid to struggling homeowners — its intended purpose. Still, both legislative chambers earmark some money for affordable housing with developers benefiting handsomely. The Senate proposes $65 million to developers of low-income housing projects while the House plans $50 million to affordable housing developers along with $35 million for Habitat for Humanity. Read the full Bradenton Herald Opinion column.

Jaimie Ross: Florida Legislature must use housing trust funds for housing

This year, the Legislature faces no budget deficit and a recovering economy that has generated an estimated $200 million in Sadowski state and local housing trust funds ($53.40 million for state programs, like SAIL, and $151.41 million for SHIP), as well as an Attorney General settlement that has brought $200 million in bank settlement funds to be appropriated for housing-related activities. Housing advocates are weary from four years of near total sweeps of the housing trust funds. SHIP programs around the state have long-waiting lists for funds yet to be received. Without a budget deficit, this is the year for SHIP and SAIL to be fully funded. The Legislature has a constitutional obligation to pass a balanced budget. So when the legislature swept housing trust funds to general revenue during years of budget deficit, housing advocates didn’t like it, but there was a rationale behind it. This year, there is no such deficit. Read the full SunSentinel article.

Stop diverting the state’s housing fund

BY JAIMIE ROSS www.sadowskicoalition.com Heading into the 2013 legislative session, things were looking good. No budget deficit and a recovering economy that has generated an estimated $200 million in Sadowski state and local housing trust funds, as well as an attorney-general settlement that has generated an additional $200 million in bank settlement funds to be appropriated for housing related activities. Housing advocates are weary from four years of near total “sweeps” of the housing trust fund monies. Without a budget deficit, this is the year for all housing programs under the Sadowski fund to be fully funded. Read the full article in the Miami Herald.

Despite budget surplus, affordable housing money still up for grabs

TALLAHASSEE — Attorney General Pam Bondi praised Florida House Republicans last week after they unveiled a plan to spend $200 million from a national mortgage settlement on a variety of affordable housing needs for those hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis. “Thank you, thank you, thank you for putting this money back where it was meant to go,” Bondi told members of the House budget committee. Lost amid all the back-slapping, however, is that House Republicans are planning to strip an equal amount for housing aid — $200 million — from a separate trust fund so that it could be spent on other priorities, such as teacher raises and healthcare. In effect, they are swapping out what the state already had set aside for affordable housing while claiming they are spending more on it. Read the full Miami Herald Editorial.

Editorial: Hands off Sadowski Fund

OUR OPINION: Legislators should not divert money from designated accounts For the first time in years, economic forecasters believe Florida might have a surplus instead of a deficit as it prepares its annual budget, so the time is ripe for lawmakers to end the dishonest practice of diverting funds from specific accounts for use in general revenue. Florida, like the federal government and most states, has established special funding accounts, replenished annually with revenue from taxpayers. The funds are supposed to be used for specific purposes, like the state’s Sadowski Trust Fund for affordable housing programs. Read the full Miami Herald editorial.

Editorial: Housing help

It is impossible to undo all the damage done by mortgage fraud and the real estate crisis in Florida. Too many Floridians were harmed, and any remedies came too late to avoid hardships, even financial ruin. Read the Ocala.com editorial.

Bondi floats $60 million in new housing aid from long-delayed foreclosure settlement

Attorney General Pam Bondi and the Florida Legislature have announced the first plans for spending the state’s portion of a multi-billion dollar mortgage settlement with major banks. At a Legislative Budget Commission meeting next week, Bondi will present plans to spend $60 million of the $334 million settlement on a wide range of housing aid programs. Read the full Tampa Bay Times article.

It can be a win-win-win

Foreclosure settlement It consumed a lot of public servants’ time going back and forth, engaged in a struggle of wills. But in the end, the accord struck by Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and leaders of the Florida Legislature makes sense. The deal seems like a win-win-win for Bondi, lawmakers and citizens looking for help in a struggling housing market. Read the full naplesnews.com editorial.

Keeping housing funds in order

An agreement between Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and lawmakers should ensure the bulk of the state’s mortgage settlement goes to deserving Floridians. Still, voters should keep an eye on the Legislature and make sure it doesn’t divert the $334 million settlement to members’ pet projects. Read the full Tampa Bay Online Opinion.

Bondi struck bad deal on $200 million from mortgage fraud settlement

Attorney General Pam Bondi assured Floridians that $300 million from a national mortgage settlement would go to distressed homeowners. She can’t keep that promise, though, because she’s given the Florida Legislature control over most of the money. Ms. Bondi just agreed to get $60 million to homeowners right away. At next month’s meeting of the Legislative Budget Commission, she will seek amendments to disburse the money for down payments and foreclosure-related legal assistance. Ms. Bondi designated $40 million as civil penalties, but gave the Legislature power to appropriate the remaining $200 million. Read the full Palm Beach Post editorial.

Holding up housing help for Florida

An agreement between Attorney General Pam Bondi and the state’s incoming legislative leaders over how to spend hundreds of millions of dollars from a national settlement over foreclosure abuses is too vague and too late. Bondi has been rightfully pushing to get the money spent quickly on help to homeowners facing foreclosure, but state lawmakers have been standing in the way. What they have finally agreed upon would delay most of the help until well into next year without specifically designating how the money would be spent. The agreement appears to be more concerned with the prerogatives of the Legislature than the interests of Florida’s struggling families. Read the full Tampa Bay Times article.

Bondi reaches deal over $300 million settlement

After a months-long feud, Florida’s attorney general and the state Legislature reached a deal Friday intended to clear the way for $300 million in mortgage settlement money to finally start flowing to homeowners and communities hurt by the foreclosure crisis. The money is the state’s direct share of a massive $25 billion national settlement with five of the nation’s largest mortgage lenders. Read the full The Florida Times Union article.

Pam Bondi reaches deal on Florida’s $300 million foreclosure settlement

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi announced Friday that she has reached a deal with state lawmakers over how to use $300 million in foreclosure settlement money that has sat dormant since April as top officials have haggled over who had authority to spend the cash. Read the full Tampa Bay Times article.

Florida attorney general, lawmakers unveil plan for $300 million mortgage settlement

After an eight-month delay, legislative leaders and Florida’s attorney general have agreed on how to divvy up $334 million from a national mortgage settlement. Earlier this year, the nation’s five largest mortgage servicers signed a $25 billion settlement after the foreclosure robo-signing scandal. Some $7.5 billion of that went to Florida, with about $300 million landing in an escrow account while Attorney General Palm Bondi and Florida lawmakers argued over who had the right to spend the money. Read the full The Palm Beach Post article.

AG, Lawmakers Reach Accord on Foreclosure Settlement

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and legislative leaders said Friday they reached accord over how $300 million recovered from mortgage lenders and servicers as part of a national foreclosure settlement will be spent. The Legislature and Bondi’s office have been at odds for months over who had the authority to spend the money, part of $8 billion in relief promised Florida under the $25 billion national settlement announced in February. Read the full Sunshine State News article.

Editorial: Good deal on fraud settlement

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and legislative leaders have tentatively settled a dispute over how to distribute $334 million from the state’s mortgage-fraud settlement. Good for them and, if the Legislature keeps its end of the deal, good for Florida. Read the full Herald Tribune Editorial.

Pam Bondi Is Right About Raises for State Employees

Attorney General Pam Bondi’s impassioned stand last week against turning Florida’s $334 million mortgage-fraud settlement into raises for state employees was nothing less than heroic. “This money is to help consumers in the foreclosure crisis,” she said. “This money … will not be used for pay raises if I have anything to do with it ….” Read the full Sunshine State article.

Why Florida is Sitting on $300 Million Meant to Help Homeowners

Florida has the highest percentage of home loans in foreclosure in the country. So why is more than $300 million that could help homeowners sitting unused? Florida was awarded those millions in February as part of the $25 billion national settlement between five of country’s biggest banks and forty-nine states and the District of Columbia. The settlement resolved allegations of wrongful foreclosures and other mortgage servicing abuses, and required banks to offer some homeowners the opportunity to modify their loans or refinance, or, in some cases pay homeowners directly for wrongful foreclosure. Read the full Pro Publica article.

Bondi: Mortgage fraud settlement not for raises

Attorney General Pam Bondi vowed Tuesday that money the state gets from a national mortgage-fraud settlement will go to consumers, not to pay raises for state employees as one lawmaker has suggested. “I think we’d all love pay raises, but that’s not what this money is for,” Bondi said in response to questions about a proposal made earlier in the week by Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, D-Tallahassee. Read the full News-Press.com article.

Homeowners lose out as Bondi and Legislature haggle over $300 million in foreclosure aid

Florida is ranked No. 1 the nation for the number of homes in foreclosures and the number of people on the verge of losing their homes. But the Sunshine state is last in the nation when it comes to in using the millions of dollars in available housing aid from a national mortgage settlement, according to a report released Thursday by Enterprise Community Partners. Read the full article on The Buzz.

Fla. Attorney General not budging on settlement

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is refusing to back down in her feud with the GOP-controlled Legislature when it comes to $300 million intended to help homeowners. Bondi this week turned in her 2013 budget request to state legislators. She asked for various items including money for a new telephone system and money to hire more appeals attorneys. Read the full StAugustine.com article.

Average Florida mortgage reduction tops $114,000

More than 1,000 Florida homeowners have seen an average debt reduction of $114,015 on their primary mortgage since the February approval of the settlement between leading lenders and state attorneys general. The hefty discount meant to save struggling borrowers from foreclosure was mentioned by U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan in remarks Monday previewing his appearance today at Florida Housing Coalition’s annual conference in Orlando. Read the full Palm Beach Post article.

Hands off the money

OUR OPINION: Legislators should not meddle in mortgage settlement fund Given Tallahasee’s chronic budget shortfalls and lawmakers’ love of found money, it’s no wonder some of them are casting covetous eyes on the $334 million pot of gold that Florida received as its share of a $25 billion settlement with mortgage banks. What a perfectly horrible idea. Read more of The Miami Herald editorial.

$334 million unspent because of in-state feud

TALLAHASSEE – Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is quietly feuding with the GOP-controlled Legislature over who should have a say over more than $300 million intended to help homeowners. Florida is directly receiving $334 million as part of its share of a national $25 billion settlement with five of the nation’s largest mortgage lenders. Read more at HeraldTribune.com.

Housing fund should help all

Thanks to The Miami Herald for supporting the Sadowski Trust Fund, Florida’s affordable housing fund that is the envy of other states, but has been woefully underfunded in recent years. Thanks to Attorney General Pam Bondi for seeking public input on how best to allocate Florida’s portion of the national mortgage settlement. Read the full Letter to the Editor in the Miami Herald.

Last day for ideas on $300M – State solicits public on spending plan for fund

Florida is now sitting on about $300 million in mortgage-settlement funds, and everyone from real-estate agents to victimized homeowners has been advising state Attorney General Pam Bondi on how to spend it. The public has until the end of today to email or call the Florida Attorney General’s Office with suggestions for spending the money, part of a $25 billion legal settlement of abusive-lending allegations reached in February between attorneys general for 49 states and the nation’s five biggest mortgage lenders. Read the full Sun Sentinel article.

Florida Realtors: Spend $100M of banks’ settlement money on workforce

As a strong advocate for affordable housing, Florida Realtors urges Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi to put the Sadowski Housing Trust Fund at the top of the state’s list to receive some of an expected $300-plus million due from the recent foreclosure legal settlement with five of the nation’s largest banks. Read the full Destin Log article here.

Mortgage Fraud: Suggest Settlement Ideas

Floridians now have an easy way to suggest constructive ways for their state to spend millions of dollars from the proceeds of a mortgage-fraud settlement. Florida was among the states that joined the federal government to sue the nation’s five largest mortgage servicers, alleging foreclosure abuses and unacceptable nationwide mortgage-servicing practices. Florida’s share of the $25 billion settlement is $8.4 billion. Read the full Ledger article.

Florida’s $300-million housing bounty

Advocates of affordable housing in Florida, listen up: You have a chance to weigh in on how the state uses $300 million to ease the pain of the foreclosure crisis, but you must act quickly. The funds were part of a court-approved, $25-billion settlement that Attorney General Pam Bondi and 48 of her counterparts in other states managed to wrest from five of the nation’s greediest banks and mortgage servicers to clean up the robo-signing scandal that delivered grief to tens of thousands of homeowners across the country. Read the full Miami Herald editorial .