Should Affordable Housing Money Only Go To The Panhandle? House And Senate Split On The Issue

Apr 8, 2019

Credit Jessica Palombo / WFSU News

The Sadowski Housing Coalition wants the state to spend money in an affordable housing trust fund on affordable housing. While that is the plan in the Senate, the House has other ideas.

CEO of the Florida Housing Coalition, Jamie Ross, says the Florida legislature has been sweeping the trust fund for years.

“The problem has become so severe that most local governments cannot have wait lists, the reason is they don’t want to get people’s hopes up when they are no longer able to serve them because the money isn’t coming from the legislature,” said Ross. 

Florida has the third highest homeless population in the nation. Cities such as Orlando, Miami, and Tampa have become some of the worst places for affordable housing.

Much of that inventory was wiped out in the Panhandle during Hurricane Michael. The House wants to use a third of the trust fund money to restore it, which is upsetting to affordable housing organizations. 

“The hurricane just exacerbates an issue that exists. The housing trust funds are not there for the purpose of Hurricane recovery, the housing trust funds are there to deal with the statewide affordable housing crisis,” said Mark Hendrickson, who helps lead the state’s housing finance association.

There’s an estimated $352 million in the affordable housing trust fund.  The House also wants to allocate $200 million toward other areas of the budget once again resulting in a trust fund sweep.

Meanwhile, the Senate wants to put most of the money in the trust toward affordable housing programs, and Senate Appropriations Chairman Rob Bradley is holding firm.

“We have our position and the House has their position right now. There’s a lot of differences between the Senate and the House on that and several other issues. I think it’s a mistake for anybody to take anything off of the table, but our position is strong and that’s how we feel about it,” he said. 

Bradley's house counterpart, Rep. Jay Trumbull (R-Panama City) says there’s always going to be an issue on what the money will be spent on when it relates to affordable housing. His North Florida District was directly in the path of the storm.

“Every single apartment complex in Bay county, as an example, on the east side of the bridge was unlivable for five months. So there’s a huge need for folks to get be able to get into a place quickly and affordably,” said Trumbull. 

The Senate and the House must agree on a plan in order to allocate the housing trust fund money.