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FL - If you can’t find an affordable home, Florida’s Republican lawmakers want to make sure you never do | Editorial

Faced with sea-level rise, water-quality issues and a growing shortage of affordable housing, Florida’s legislative leadership has unveiled a proposal that would rob Peter to pay Paul to address the state’s biggest crises — and they are patting themselves on the back.

October 31, 2016

Not so fast, lawmakers.

Under a proposal approved by a House committee Thursday, the Legislature would finally stop diverting dollars from Florida’s 30-year-old affordable-housing trust fund, a practice lawmakers have adopted over the past decade whenever they needed to plug holes in the state budget. That has resulted in a $2.3 billion loss that could have been used to build affordable rental units and help new homeowners with down payments and closing costs.

Affordable-housing advocates and this Editorial Board have for years begged lawmakers to stop raiding that fund. That’s especially crucial for Miami-Dade County, one of the least affordable places to live in the nation. The county currently needs 160,000 affordable rental units — and 210,000 will be needed by 2030, according to a study commissioned by Miami Homes for All.

Taking money away

But don’t be fooled.

In exchange for putting an end to fund sweeping, the bill would permanently short-change affordable housing by dividing the money in the trust fund — which was created with real-estate transaction tax revenue — with two other programs.

One-third of the money would go toward mitigating the impacts of sea-level rise. One-third would go toward a wastewater grant program that pays for things like septic-to-sewer conversions. One-third would be left for affordable housing, essentially locking in the little amount that has been dedicated for this purpose. That means a reduction from 24 percent to 6.8 percent of documentary stamp tax revenue that is dedicated for housing.

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