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FL: Use affordable housing tax for affordable housing

Is the tax that funds The Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust being collected under false pretenses? The tax was set up in 1992; assessed on documentary stamps paid on all real estate transactions. But since 2002, the Legislature has swept $1.3 billion from the trust fund into general revenue.

Realtors and homebuilders pushed for the trust fund even though it was paid with a tax on their sector of the economy because the funds were to be used for affordable housing programs. Programs like the State Housing Incentive Partnership and the State Apartment Incentive Loan program use the funds to help build or restore homes for low-income or homeless families, boosting activity in the housing sector and helping people on the margins of the economy.

“I’m rather simple-minded, maybe a little old-fashioned,” Tallahassee Democrat, Senator Bill Montford, told those attending a press conference Tuesday; called to urge lawmakers to appropriate all the housing trust fund monies for housing. “If you have a trust fund for a specific purpose, then you use it for that.” Although Montford said he supports using all of the affordable housing trust funds for affordable housing programs this year, he stopped short of criticizing his colleagues for raiding the trust fund in the past.

A projected $1.2 billion budget surplus is expected to be sufficient to dissuade legislators from attempting to reallocate funds from the trust fund to other projects, for the 2014-2015 Fiscal Year, the tax is expected to raise $291.3 million.

A foreclosure fraud settlement with five large banks added $200 million for the state, part of which went into affordable housing programs and homeless shelter programs last year.

That may be too large a temptation for legislators who have their own spending priorities.

A report from the Florida Housing Coalition claims using all of the trust fund money for affordable housing programs this year will result in an additional 27,000 jobs and have a $3.4 billion economic impact on the state.

Michael Gold

As the Florida editor for Watchdog Wire, my goal is to work with other citizen journalists, like you, to help compensate for the lack of mainstream news reporting to expose waste, fraud and abuse that exists in government. My colleagues at Franklin Center, and peers in the Citizen Watchdog movement, share a belief that government transparency and accountability is not a conservative or liberal idea – it is an American idea. A free flow of information is essential to maintaining our free republic, and that starts with a free press — and that starts with you.

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Categories: Budget and Finance, Economy, Must Read, Taxes
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