Scott, lawmakers should keep their hands off Sadowski affordable-housing funds

The Bradenton Herald

Gov. Rick Scott wants to take funds dedicated to affordable housing and put them in general revenue.
Gov. Rick Scott wants to take funds dedicated to affordable housing and put them in general revenue. Associated Press

The lack of affordable and workforce housing is not a hardship for the residents in just a few Florida cities. No, in just about everywhere in Florida, it is a political question.

Nobody has come up with a solution, though the Sunshine State has a meritorious partial answer — if only it is allowed to work. The Sadowski Act, passed into law in 1992, pumps money into affordable housing programs statewide through the documentary stamp tax paid on real estate transactions. But those dollars are basically stolen by Tallahassee politicians more interested in funding their goals — by explaining the money was needed to balance the state budget.

This year is like too many others. The Legislature has yet to rob the Trust Fund bank, but Gov. Rick Scott has set his sights on the easy money. His budget proposal, which he titled “Fighting for Florida’s Future” to “create opportunities for generations of Floridians,” sweeps about two-thirds — 77 percent — of the lawfully dedicated money supposedly going into the Sadowski fund back into his $83.5 billion state budget plan.

Scott’s attempted heist amounts to $224 million earmarked for low-income housing from state and local housing funds this coming fiscal year — for his priorities. Last year, lawmakers stole $200 million out of the trust, cutting Scott’s raid down from almost $240 million. The year before, the Legislature allocated $175 million of the $255 million that should have been spent on affordable housing.

The political message is crystal clear. Housing for the poor is not a priority, not even a low one, not by any measure.

The powers that be ignore the outcries from the Associated Industries of Florida, AARP, the Florida Realtors Association, the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the Florida Home Builders Association and other organizations — all members of the Sadowski Housing Coalition — to fully fund Sadowski. The coalition also represents local governments, churches, veterans, people with disabilities and the homeless.

The coalition estimates that, should the trust be fully funded, it would bring $3.78 billion in positive economic impact for the state’s economy and 28,700 jobs. Our “jobs” governor appears to be deaf to that.

“Fully funding affordable housing goes a long way toward enhancing our state’s workforce and business climate,” Brewster Bevis, senior vice president of the business lobbying group Associated Industries of Florida, said this month. “If we can ensure that Florida’s employees, at all income levels, can find a safe and reliable affordable home near their job, our state can continue to be one of the best places to do business.”

The governor has expressed similar views about the workforce and business. Where is he now?

This is a revised version of an editorial that originally was published by The Bradenton Herald.