Affordable housing fund raided again

The following editorial was published in The Daily Sun on April 10, 2022.

OUR POSITION: Legislators can’t keep their mitts off money in the Sadowski Fund that is dedicated to fund affordable housing.

They broke their promise, again.

The people we elected to represent us in Tallahassee once again broke a promise not to touch the Sadowski Fund. As happens every year, they quietly took almost two-thirds of the money that is supposed to help build affordable housing and scheduled it to be used elsewhere.

The Legislature, in the final couple of days of this year session, withdrew $100 million from the Sadowski Fund to put into a new program that has not even decided how to dole out the money. That left the state with $53.25 million in the fund for affordable housing, according to an Orlando Sentinel story.

Sadowski money, simply put, is used to subsidize the cost of building housing for developers so they, in return, will offer cheaper rents.

It’s tiresome to keep writing the same criticism each year, but lawmakers just won’t listen. It’s like they don’t realize people can’t afford to pay sky-high rents that show no signs of letting up in Florida. Since a large number of lawmakers are wealthy — there were 70 millionaires in the House and Senate in 2020 — they probably don’t feel our pain.

In case they are not paying attention — after all they had to pass important legislation including naming the state dessert — we’ll remind them about the soaring prices for rental units.

  • An average two-bedroom rental in Port Charlotte is $2,237 according to Rent.com. A one-bedroom is $1,812.
  • The average rental for a studio apartment in Sarasota has gone up 26% in the past year and is now $1,450, according to Rent.com.
  • North Port has the highest rents for a studio apartment at $2,291, but that is mostly because a studio apartment in North Port is extremely rare.

With those types of rents and the cry from moderate income families for help, lawmakers decided to take $100 million and slipped it into the budget for the Hometown Hero Housing Program. It is a program that would help with down payments and closing costs to be established and run by the Florida Housing Finance Corporation.

But, according to the Orlando Sentinel story, those who sponsored transferring the money didn’t bother to put language in the budget to say how the program will be set up, who can qualify for help or if there are limits on how much one person or family can apply for. In other words, the program is pretty much just an idea.

The ideas floated for the Hometown Heroes program are legitimate. They include paying up to $25,000 for down payment and closing costs for emergency workers such as law enforcement, health care professionals and teachers. Applicants would have to have full-time jobs with incomes not exceeding 150% of the local median income.

But, while the idea is not bad, the dedicated money could do so much more for so many other people. Clerks, restaurant workers, transportation workers — all of them needing affordable housing — could benefit from the impact of apartment complexes built with the help of Sadowski funds.

If you want to know why the Sadowski fund was raided again, call the people you elected.

Rep. Michael Grant, 941-613-0914 or 850-717-5075; Sen. Joe Gruters, 941-378-6309; Rep. James Buchanan, 941-429-4560; Sen. Denise Grimsley, 941-575-5717 or Sen. Ben Albritton, 863-534-0073.

Tell them you can’t afford your rent and ask them what they’re doing about it, or if they care.

 Image Credits: Sun Coast Media Group

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