The 2013 Florida legislative session has been especially active for affordable housing advocates as they focused their efforts on ensuring that the state direct its share of the 2012 National Mortgage Settlement to supplement existing housing programs; use funds dedicated to Florida’s two housing trust funds only for housing; and address housing issues through existing programs, not new ones with attached revenue. In the end, advocates helped to secure $160 million for affordable housing and homeless programs, along with a requirement that most of the funds be targeted to people with developmental disabilities. They also were able to keep all housing funds in existing programs. Offsetting these victories was the fact that funds were taken from the State and Local Housing Trust Funds for general revenue purposes, and then replaced—not supplemented—with mortgage settlement dollars.
The Florida Nonprofit Housing Advocates Network, a subset of the Florida Housing Coalition (FHC), created a strategic plan aimed at capturing the state’s entire share of funds from the 2012 mortgage settlement between 49 state attorneys general and the U.S. Department of Justice for housing programs. Advocates were concerned that the legislature would swipe dedicated funds from the two trust funds given the available dollars. FHC and its members made it a priority to get legislators to preserve the dedicated resources for housing, but were unsuccessful.
“Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi deserves credit for ensuring that the bank settlement funds were used entirely for housing-related purposes,” said Jaimie Ross, president of FHC, an NLIHC State Coalition Partner. “However, the Florida Legislature should have used the monies to supplement the State and Local Housing Trust Funds. That would have meant an additional $204 million appropriation for much needed affordable housing.”
In the final budget, the State Apartment Incentive Loan Program, which provides competitive low-interest loans to affordable housing developers, received $50 million to provide funding to reduce rents on new or existing rental units, of which 50% must be used for elderly units and the rest for extremely low income residents. Another $10 million was allocated for the construction or rehabilitation of units, of which at least 10%—but not more than 25%— are designed, constructed and targeted for persons with developmental disabilities.
Receiving $40 million was the State Housing Initiatives Partnership Program, which provides funds to local governments as an incentive to create partnerships that produce and preserve affordable homeownership and multifamily housing for very low to moderate income families. Each local government must use at least 20% of its allocation to serve persons with special needs, with priority for persons with developmental disabilities. The funds also must prioritize technological enhancement devices that will allow homeowners to remain independent in their own homes.
The Florida Housing Finance Corporation (FHFC) received $10 million for homeless housing competitive grants that will enable private and nonprofit organizations to purchase and renovate homes and construct specialty housing of 15 or fewer units for homeless individuals or families. FHFC will receive an additional $10 million to fund a competitive grant program for housing developments designed, constructed and targeted for persons with developmental disabilities. When evaluating grant proposals, FHFC is encouraged to consider the extent to which applicants will use funds from other sources to leverage the funds to provide employment opportunities; plans for residents to effectively and efficiently access community-based services, resources and amenities; and partnerships with other supportive service agencies.
For more information, contact Jaimie Ross, Florida Housing Coalition, firstname.lastname@example.org