AFFORDABLE HOUSING BILL INTRODUCED IN STATE HOUSE-Andrew Stelzer

03/22/06

A bill introduced in the Florida house to help with the states affordable housing shortage is drawing praise from advocates who have been calling for a solution for years to a problem that has reached crisis proportions.

ACT-Ross “The housing crisis has reached middle class and workers, so now they are paying attention..�

Jamie Ross is the affordable housing director for 1000 friends of Florida. She says the best part of House bill 1363, which was endorsed by the House Growth Management committee on Tuesday, is the repeal of a cap on state spending for affordable housing, which had been passed last year.

ACT-Ross “It’s a very exciting bill because it scraps the cap, repeals the cap that’s scheduled to go into effect in 2007, cap the money that can be distributed into affordable housing trust funds Davis will repeal language..’

Affordable housing advocates have been telling legislators to scrap the cap since it was passed by the governor. A repeal would let the state double the amount of money it spends of workforce housing, from about half a billion to almost a billion dollars. Naples area representative Mike Davis introduced house bill 1363.

ACT-Davis “There’s a growing collation in-house and senate that the cap is the right thing to do, and we have t use the Sadowski to provide affordable housing..�

There have been some complaints about the bill, which also includes 100 million dollars for housing needs created by hurricanes. One program that would be created would offer high down payments on homes and rental construction subsidies for police, teachers, firefighters and other essential service workers, but only in Counties where the median sale price of a single-family home is above the statewide average would be eligible for funds, which upset some state legislators from panhandle counties which are in the earlier stages of a housing crisis. And other objections have been raised.

ACT-Carper “This bill is a mammoth initiative, this takes a number of initiatives in regards to affordable housing..’

Dee carper is a lobbyist with the Florida League of cities, which represents 410 municipalities. Carper expressed concerns about a provision of the bill, which required local governments to inventory every single piece of land they have, even those such as conservation lands and right of ways that are not suitable for development. She said that would be a wasted expense.

ACT-Carper “There is a subject to affordable housing usage. This is a major undertaking..It includes conservation lands, parks, golf courses, everything the municipality owns. “

ACT-carper “We want to do the most without having it cost too much…for larger cities its too much at once.�

But Carper says bill sponsor Mike Davis has agreed to narrow the inventory to only properties that are suitable for housing. Its indicative of the approach Davis has taken, introducing the bill with the attitude that it will go through lots of changes—it has to pass through 3 more committees before it can become law. Davis’ bill also contains a definition for extremely low-income people, and sets aside about 30 million dollars for housing for those with incomes under 30% of the area median income.

ACT-Davis “That’s what the experts tell me, that’s what we need to serve that population at this point in time..�

Most of the funds for the poorest of the poor will go to rental housing, since the purchase of even so called affordable homes are out of many peoples reach. Ross from 1000 friends of Florida says its part of what she and other lobbyists have been asking for years.

ACT-Ross “This is the first time we have seen an appropriation for low income housing. It could be close a billion dollars..it estimated and we need all that money…�

Carper says in Tallahassee, there are many competing interests all trying to get their issues addressed as the affordable housing bill seems destined to pass in one form or another.

ACT-carper “We are all in support, but there are so many advocates all want support…�

Ross from 100 friends of Florida says if something had been done earlier, many of the problems local communities are now facing might not be occurring.

ACT-Ross “The reason we have bi-partisan support is that we are in a crisis, last few years it was raided and used for other purposes, we’ve only seen 193 million dollars, and you couple that with the hyper appreciation and what happened is in virtually every area of the state you have had local governments who have not been able to recruit essential services personnel.�

And above all, says Ross, if they legislators don’t end up scrapping the cap, this year’s session will all be for naught.

ACT-Ross “At the end of the day if they don’t vote for full appropriation of the funds, if they do what the governor does, it will not be successful..It must be number one, “

There is a similar bill working its way through the State senate.

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