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Affordable Housing Versus The Environment

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Florida Senate
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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.

The consensus lawmakers reach in the next 60 days will determine how many more low-income Floridians can reap the benefits of affordable housing.

Fifty one-year-old Theodore Anderson is a Quincy native and 10-year veteran of the National Guard. He drove a truck for 19 years for Tallahassee Memorial Hospital and after that, a public school bus. A tumble on the basketball court broke his femur and forced him into early retirement.

His bad luck didn’t end there. Three years ago, the manufactured home he shared with his 14-year-old son and 16-year-old daughter, started to crumble.

“The roof started leaking. I guess the trees, the kind of pine trees, got in the roof or whatever and the siding, well, you know, the siding was kind of eaten up on the outside. But from the rain coming inside, we had mold, mold had gotten in there. And that mold was like rough, trying to get it out.”

That’s when a neighbor cued Anderson into the availability of affordable housing assistance. Two years after he filled out the first form, Anderson had a new home.

“My first thought is there’s a God out there.”

Fewer down- and-out Floridians could be as lucky. The problem starts with Amendment 1, the conservation mandate approved by 75 percent of voters.

Amendment 1 locks up more than a third, or $750 million, of a tax on most real estate transactions. Affordable housing usually gets 16 percent of that tax. Now the Senate is considering giving affordable housing 16 percent of what’s left AFTER Amendment 1 takes its bite.

Jaimie (cq) Ross, president of the Florida Housing Coalition, insists there’s enough money to go around.

“So there does not need to be any ‘either or’ between the environment and housing. It’s totally unnecessary.”

But budget experts predict the first-year cut could be $112 million.

A Miami native, former WFSU reporter Jim Ash is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years of experience, most of it in print. He has been a member of the Florida Capital Press Corps since 1992.