Changing Perspectives & Changing Lives Habitat’s Advocacy Commitment
It’s hard to believe that the first month of 2021 is already in the rearview mirror. As we look forward to the rest of the year, we are excited to grow our impact. Be on the lookout for the upcoming release of our 2021 legislative priorities as well as continued updates on the goings-on in Tallahassee this legislative session.
$400 Million for Affordable Housing in Governor’s Budget Proposal
On January 28th, Governor Ron DeSantis released his budget proposal for the upcoming FY2021 – 2022 statewide budget. As part of the budget process, the Governor presents his budget recommendation to the Legislature. This budget will ultimately promote his priorities and key issues, serving as a guidepost for the Legislature.
Displaying a renewed commitment to affordable housing, Governor DeSantis’s budget allocates $423 million to fund housing programs throughout the State. The funding proposal is being applauded by various statewide housing and policy groups, including the Sadowski Coalition, Florida Housing Board and the Florida League of Cities. However, this is just the very beginnings of negotiations between the Governor and House and Senate. The 2021 legislative session begins on Tuesday, March 2nd and funding for affordable housing will remain a key issue for the legislature to tackle.
Town & County Tour
In partnership with Florida Senator Ed Hooper, Habitat’s CEO Mike Sutton led a tour for local elected officials and other County/City leaders of our Town & Country redevelopment in New Port Richey. The purpose of the event was to highlight the progress that has been made and share our vision for the future.
Historically, the Leisure Lane area (as it’s known locally) was a hotbed for drug use and prostitution in West Pasco County. The area was riddled with dilapidated mobile homes not suitable for human habitation, with many of the unsafe structures being used for illegal activities. In early 2018, Pasco County provided Habitat a loan to begin acquiring lots within the neighborhood for redevelopment. To date, Habitat has acquired 45 properties, demolished 24 blighted structures, completed waste disposal and lot clearing as well as provided continuous maintenance for all of the lots. We have also built 9 homes with one currently under construction. Yet there is more work to be done.
Habitat board member and urban planner Frank Starkey discussed the vision of the development, which would incorporate a more pedestrian-friendly design and better integration into the surrounding communities. Additionally, Habitat’s VP of Marketing Morgan Brochetti, discussed creating a new identity for the neighborhood by launching a rebranding effort informed by residents, the community and stakeholders.
While there remain some challenges to overcome we thank the elected officials for their commitment to the redevelopment and support of our mission.
HB 159 – Affordable Housing Residency Requirements (Update)
Last month we informed you about a bill that was filed potentially impacting affordable housing (see below). We are pleased to inform you the bill has been withdrawn. As always we will continue to monitor legislation and provide updates as well as advocacy opportunities shall the need arise.
Filed by Florida House of Representative Fred Hawkins, this legislation would impact any affordable housing units built upon on either county or municipal property. The bill states every able-bodied person 18+ residing in housing would be required to participate in (A) career training or job skills program (B) attend training on resume writing, preparing for a job interview and creating a budget (C) the maximum length of residency in such housing is 3 consecutive years. Such legislation would significantly impact our homeowners and presupposes that all residing in affordable housing do not have an adequate career nor the skills necessary to obtain gainful employment.
HB 13 – State Funds (update)
Back in December (see below) we informed you of one of the very 1st bills to be filed for the upcoming 2021 legislative session, House Bill 13. We are excited to update that Senator Ed Hooper who represents parts of North Pinellas and West Pasco Counties has filed a companion bill in the Senate. We applaud Senator Hooper for his commitment to funding affordable housing and thank him for his efforts. Stay tuned for additional updates
One of the very first bills in the Florida House to be filled is HB 13, co-sponsored by Representative Sam Killebrew (R-Polk) and Representative David Silvers (D- Palm Beach). This legislation would exempt the State Housing Trust Fund and the Local Government Housing Trust Fund (also known as the Sadowski Housing Trust Fund) from a provision that allows the transfer of unappropriated cash balances into either the Budget Stabilization Fund or General Revenue Fund. In other words, this would block the State legislature from “sweeping” the Sadowski Housing Trust Fund for other purposes.
Why is this important? Since 2001 the trust fund has only been fully-funded 3 times and was last fully appropriated in 2007. During this time, almost $3 billion has been diverted into non-housing related items. Additionally, partially due to Governor DeSantis’s funding veto in early 2020, it is anticipated there may be over $600 million to be appropriated for FY 21-22.
Want to stay up to date and ensure you don’t miss out on any advocacy opportunities?! Be sure to click the link below and signup for our Advocacy Alerts! These alerts will go directly to your inbox with important information about affordable housing as well as calls to action. Click the link below!