The Legislature Must Stop Diverting Affordable Housing Funding
There is an affordable housing crisis in Florida. It is truly a nationwide problem, but it is especially acute in the Sunshine State. The availability of affordable housing for lower-income families in Florida is lower than almost all other states, and most of those at the lower end of the income scale that do have places to live are overburdened with housing costs they cannot afford.
A lack of affordable housing hurts our most vulnerable populations: the poor, children, the elderly, persons with special needs, and veterans. Many working Floridians also find it difficult to live in the communities in which they work. Median incomes do not match median home prices, putting home ownership out of reach for many, including people with critical jobs such as teachers, EMTs, police, and firefighters.
A lack of affordable housing also carries significant social costs. It harms the health and educational prospects of children, it limits the self-sufficiency of the elderly and those with special needs, and it increases the costs associated with the homeless population. Conversely, investing in affordable housing reduces those costs while also providing the inherent economic benefits that accompany construction activity.
In 1992, acknowledging the importance of affordable housing, the Legislature created a dedicated source of funding state and local programs. Unfortunately, it has not really been dedicated, as these funds have become more of a pot of money for legislators to use to balance the budget or fund other initiatives. In fact, over the last ten years, more of these funds have been diverted to other uses than have been appropriated for affordable housing programs.
In 2017, the Florida Legislature created the Affordable Housing Workgroup and tasked it with reviewing housing in Florida, with a focus on affordable rental housing. The workgroup was also directed to develop strategies and make recommendations to improve the availability of affordable housing in Florida.
The workgroup’s first recommendation was that the Legislature should appropriate all funds in the State and Local Government Housing Trust Funds (collectively herein referred to as Housing Trust Funds) solely for Florida’s affordable housing programs.1
The 2018 Legislature responded by sweeping $182.0 million from the funds, while appropriating only $123.6 million for affordable housing programs.