It sounds simple: housing trust money should be used for housing. But, over the last 10 years, according to Florida Realtors®, Florida government has diverted over $2 billion out of existing affordable housing trust funds, and spent it on other unrelated projects.
Margy Grant, CEO of Florida Realtors®, Christina Pappas, president-elect of Florida Realtors and vice president of the Keyes Company, Miami, and Juana Watkins, Florida Realtors General Counsel, along with other state leaders, want to change that. To make the process more accountable, Floridians are proposing a constitutional amendment that would put affordable housing trust funds in a lock box so they are used for affordable housing, and nothing else.
Here is a small preview of today’s interview with Margy, Christina and Juana. The transcript below has been lightly edited for length and clarity:
Tracey Velt: The Florida Department of State gave initial approval to a constitutional amendment proposal, which will be overseen by a political committee known as Floridians for Housing, and it’s backed by Florida Realtors. If approved by Florida voters, it will guarantee that money flowing into the state’s affordable housing trust funds be used exclusively for affordable housing. Tell me a little bit about Florida realtors’ roles and your goals with this.
Margy Grant: This is an historic initiative that is 30 years in the making. In 1992, the state legislature raised the amount of money that they charged for documentary stamps when a real estate transaction closed. In doing so, there was an understanding and an agreement that a very specific portion of that doc stamp money would be committed to affordable housing programs through the housing trust funds. Unfortunately, the legislature did not hold up their end of the deal. Over the last 29 years, they have swept $2.6 billion and diverted that money to other programs to fund the state of Florida. For 29 years, Realtors have gone to our state capitol and advocated for housing funds to be used for housing.
We had a historical accomplishment in 2020, where the legislature finally fully funded what we call the housing trust funds. For the first time, housing funds would be solely used for housing. This is the future of Florida that we’re talking about.
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