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Legislation would stop Florida housing trust fund raid

A gavel in a courtroom. (Pexels)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – For the first time in almost 20 years, a Florida governor is recommending the state spend every dollar in the affordable housing trust fund for just that -- affordable housing.

There is also pending legislation that would keep the money from being used for something else except in emergencies.

Funding for Florida’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund comes from the tax on documents when someone buys a home.

The problem housing advocates have been fighting since 2001 is that the money is often used for something else.

“We have high housing prices, not enough inventory,” said Jamie Ross, CEO of the Florida Housing Coalition.

For every $48 the Legislature has spent from the trust fund on housing, $52 has gone to something else.

“There is a mindset that this trust fund isn’t just for housing, but guess what? It is! It was created just for housing,” said Ross.

State Sen. Ed Hooper, R-Fla., wants to stop future raids on the trust fund.

“There will no sweep of this trust fund,” said Hooper.

His legislation would classify the housing fund as untouchable except in emergencies.

“Eviction and foreclosure protections are going to go away and folks are going to lose their home. And they have to go somewhere, and they have to be able to provide at least a roof over their heads for them and their families,” said Hooper.

Technically, this year’s legislature can’t bind one in the future, but the sponsor told us he hopes his legislation will make lawmakers think twice.

An estimated one million Floridians now pay more than half their income for housing.

“They are one crisis, you know, a broken car away from homelessness,” said Ross.

This year, the governor is recommending all $423 million in the trust fund, go to its intended purpose: housing.

A new study done for the Affordable Housing Coalition suggests Florida will see $157 million in increased economic activity if it spends all $423 million on housing this year.

In most cases, the money is distributed through local housing coalitions.