PENSACOLA, Fla. (WEAR) — A major funding source for affordable housing in Florida has been slashed by 50%. But an expert in the field says there could be a silver lining.
The state Affordable Housing Trust Fund (known in Tallahassee as the Sadowski fund) covers things like down payment assistance for first-time homebuyers, repairs of older homes, and construction of affordable houses. A bill awaiting the Governor's signature would permanently reduce the amount of money sent to that fund.
The president of the Florida Housing Coalition, Jaimie Ross, says the fund has been a target since 2002, often raided by the legislature for other purposes. "It's impossible not to realize the enormous loss that we have suffered as a result of sweeps of the trust funds," Ross said. "It's somewhere between 2 and 3 billion dollars."
Eight months ago, Kariynah Pearson and her son Hadji moved into their very own home, using down payment assistance from a program paid for by the trust fund.
Kariynah believes a lot of people could use the same help. She said, "I feel like you have some people who are like just stuck right in the middle; who may have enough money to pay a mortgage, but don't really have enough money to save to purchase a home."
Money for the trust fund comes from doc stamps on real estate transactions. This year, the legislature permanently cut the amount going to the fund by 50%.
On the surface, it looks bad. Jaimie Ross said, "We have families who are homeless because they can't afford the rent."
But Ross says there is still progress. While the funding, about $200 million, is only half of what was originally proposed, a new change in the law says it can't be raided or swept for other purposes. From now on, these housing monies can only be used for housing.
Additionally, the funding will repeat every year. Ross says this is actually the most money the trust fund has seen in twelve years. She added, "They're great programs, they work. They really just need more money to be able to help more people."
Kariynah Pearson knows it works, from personal experience. She said, "That's a really big deal. That program is needed to help people who can't save the money, but they need a decent home."
For more information, a good starting point is the Escambia County Housing Finance Authority. https://www.escambiahfa.com/
They have programs and resources for people who qualify in most Northwest Florida counties, including the Channel 3 viewing area.