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HOT TOPICS, March 14, Affordable Housing

Dean Johnson  | Published on 3/15/2018

Florida advocates know all about the Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund, but not everyone in the state may be aware of this far-sighted bill that the Florida Legislature passed, via a bipartisan vote, in 1992 – a portion of revenue from documentary stamp taxes would be set aside for affordable housing.

Meanwhile, the LWVOC’s “There’s no place like home – if you can afford it” Hot Topics Wednesday detailed the crisis in affordable housing that has put Florida in the bottom five of the 50 states for affordability.

Portions of the money from the Sadowski Fund, it turns out, are being raided by the legislature to make up for budget shortfalls and tax cuts. The Orlando Sentinel, in an editorial last month, said that since the plundering began in 2002, close to $2 billion has been siphoned off.
Because of that and such other issues as the limited number of subsidized living quarters, the disparity between housing costs and wages, the influx of refugees from Hurricane Maria, displacement from Hurricane Irma and the number of homeless, Florida and Orlando are in crisis mode. The people suffering are not only the homeless but also the disabled, seniors and children.
LWVOC board member Sandi Vidal led the discussion Wednesday, calling on her panel to help us understand what’s going on.
Martha Are of the Homeless Services Networks of Central Florida said the homeless problem is “a fairly recent phenomenon. Millennials think our community is one with homeless people on the streets,” while most of us remember happier times. She says solutions won’t be easy because there will be resistance to lowering housing costs as well as subsidizing them.

Panelists Alberto Vargas and Nancy Sharifi, both with Orange County government divisions, outlined county programs (such as one for first-time home buyers) and emphasized finding partners (mainly developers) to increase the area’s housing stock. Vargas said preserving the present housing stock is vital -- as are integrating mixed-income communities, identifying areas of the county that need housing the most (as related to the proximity of jobs and schools) and educating renters and buyers about resources.

Other solutions being considered: building small houses (trending at present), setting up land-purchase trusts, relaxing building regulations.
The League’s Affordable Housing Committee continues its advocacy. You could see from Wednesday’s discussion that committee members have a lot of work ahead of them – check out the committee on, under “advocacy.”