Writer: Alejandro Sanchez
2 min read August 2021— Florida Realtors and the National Association of Realtors are advocating for a constitutional amendment to tackle the issue of housing affordability in the state. With recent financial contributions totaling $13 million to the political committee Floridians for Housing, the proposal is gaining momentum as real estate prices continue to rise, leaving many without access to affordable housing options.
Many organizations, like the Broward, Palm Beaches & St. Lucie Realtors, have identified that the resources for housing affordability are currently being redirected towards other uses. Supporters of the amendment argue that the existing Sadowski Act, a mechanism created by the Florida Legislature in 1992 to finance a path towards expanding affordable housing solutions, lacks a legal protection that prevents using its funds for other purposes.
During an interview with Invest: last year, Michelle Gomez, mayor of the City of Tamarac, acknowledged this problem. “While the City currently uses developer’s contributions to fund the first- time homebuyer program, the key issue we need assistance with is unlocking our state Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund. Unfortunately, most of the funds from the Trust have been traditionally utilized for other things rather than what we need it for – to inject resources to expand rehab projects for homes and for the expansion of the first-time homebuyer program,” Gomez told Invest:.
Currently, Palm Beach County is not creating enough homes to satisfy a growing demand, an issue highlighted by county commissioner Mack Bernard during an interview with WRLN. “We have a 30,000 shortage in homeownership supply in the county. In regards to rental units; we’re 44,000 short in terms of supply,” Bernard said.
This situation not only impacts the local workforce community, it also profoundly impacts the overall quality of life for local residents as the gap between wage and housing cost widens.
That disparity was highlighted by Ana Ray, researcher at the University of Florida’s Shimberg Center for Housing Studies, during the same interview with WRLN. “Rentsopens PDF file in South Florida are higher than in other parts of the state but the median wage is still just over $18 an hour in South Florida, meaning half of jobs pay that amount or less. This means the affordable housing gap is that much larger in Palm Beach,” explained Ray.
If successful, the amendment would establish a State Housing Trust Fund and a Local Government Housing Trust Fund in the Florida Constitution. The resources would come from a percentage of documentary stamp taxes, collected on real estate transactions, and could be used by local governments like Palm Beach County to increase their stock of affordable workforce housing. Before Feb. 1, 2022, Floridians for Housing will need to submit 891,589 signatures to include the constitutional amendment on the ballot in November next year.