Recent polling published by the Opportunity Starts at Home Campaign indicates 76% of voters are likely to vote for a candidate that has a detailed plan for making housing more affordable. We hope that you will take this opportunity to review the questionnaires.
2020 State Candidate Questionnaire
Name: Kelly Johnson
Candidate for Office: State House District 65
How would you characterize the housing needs in your district, for both renters and for homeowners?
We are experiencing increased housing costs because of increased property values. While on the surface of this it looks good for homeowners, it has essentially increased rent and has prevented certain people from becoming homeowners. For example in the city of Duneden where I reside in a Habitat for Humanity home the average rent has gone up over $1000 a year. With 46% of Floridians in what is considered ALICE households, which are one paycheck away from disaster, there are so many Floridians that need common sense Solutions to home ownership.
According to the most recent data from Zillow the median price of homes currently listed in Pinellas County is $289,900 while the median price of homes that sold was $243,000. Opportunities for affordable homeownership still present challenges for many working families. What will you do to expand access to affordable homeownership for working families?
Access to affordable attainable homeownership is one of my priorities. I would like to expand programs like habitat for humanity that allow families of various income levels to participate in homeownership.
We could look at lowering impact fees that require an increased upfront cost to building homes, or at least have those paid over time.
Determine what regulations make sense for the environment and what ones need to be revamped. Pull in Grant programs and hud housing opportunities. And increase monies in the programs that train skilled workers so that home ownership will have a direct impact on the job market.
Availability of Affordable Housing
According to the University of Florida Shimberg Center for Housing Studies, within our regional MSA which encompasses both Pinellas and Pasco counties there are only 53 available affordable housing units for every 100 households under 60% AMI. What investments or policy would you champion to address the growing gap between what citizens can afford and housing costs?
First I’d look at giving an incentive for younger people to become homeowners by allowing them to refinance student debt to a lower fixed rate. Younger persons fresh out of college graduate will mounds of student debt that can prevent them from being homeowners.
Expansion of government programs such as Fannie Mae which allow smaller down payments to be made to become home owners.
Allow for rezoning of residential properties to become multi family units.
Also get rid of some red tape to allow commercial areas that are not being utilized to be rezoned for residential
Racial Disparities in Homeownership
In Pinellas County there is a 31.6% gap between White (69.1%) and African America/ Black (37.5%) homeownership rates, which is higher than both the State gap of 24.% and national gap of 28%. How will you reduce the racial homeownership disparities in households of color?
This would be done with making home ownership more affordable and attainable. Historically there is a wage gap between whites and minorities. Closing this gap by lowering down payment requirements, reducing impact fees for construction, and investing in programs like habitat for humanity will help close this gap.
Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund
The Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund is funded through an incremental increase in doc stamps to provide a dedicated source of revenue for affordable housing. In recent years the fund has generated over $300 million in revenue annually. Unfortunately, Trust Fund is often ‘swept’ to fill other budget holes or needs within the State. How would you work with the Appropriations Chair and/or leadership to ensure funds are appropriated for their original intent?
A concerted long term plan between local, state, and federal resources is the primary way by which to create the funding needed to aide those who desire homeownership. Supporting the expansion of tax credit programs, working with lending institutions to address financing benchmarks, and implementing 30% or greater ratios for affordable units in construction new builds will go a long way in addressing the affordable housing crisis.
In addition, a complete inventory of available land parcels, HUD owned vacated properties, and other venues allowing for purchase through the land trust will support construction for affordable rentals and purchases.
The availability of affordable land continues to remain a challenge. What role can local government(s) play to help mitigate raising land costs?
The role local governments can play to help mitigate land costs are to expand Land Trust programs and allow programs such as Habitat to purchase available parcels in the heart of undeserved communities for less than the appraised value in order to make their construction numbers work.
Local governments can also provide land incentives (30% of costs) in exchange for affordable workforce housing directed towards first responders, veterans, and educators who choose to reside in communities such as Midtown, Lealman, and Greenwood. For those outside of these areas, a 60% land incentive term could be negotiated.
Specific to Housing
Any additional information pertaining to affordable housing you would like the voters to know?
I understand the desire for homeowners to want their property values to increase at a fair rate of return. I caution against the “Not In My Back Yard” syndrome. Affordable/Workforce housing will provide for teachers, fireman, police officers, small business owners, and returning college graduates.
I have been successful in creating housing opportunities as a councilmember, Florida League President, and created a Blue Ribbon Task Force on Housing in partnership with HUD. Remember, we were afforded an opportunity to realize the American dream of homeownership, therefore we should not deny this dream to others.
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