Gov. DeSantis’s budget calls for more than $420M for affordable housing

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ first full budget proposal after the COVID-19 outbreak calls for more than $423 million to help fund major housing programs in the state.

Last year, lawmakers mostly negotiated the 2020-21 budget before the pandemic’s start. The 2021-22 budget will be far more attuned to the fallout from the outbreak, and housing woes are certainly near the top of Floridians’ minds as the economic downfall from the outbreak continues.

Under the Governor’s budget proposal unveiled Thursday, DeSantis is recommending nearly $297 million for the State Housing Initiatives Partnership Program (SHIP). Nearly $127 million more would go toward the State Apartment Incentive Loan (SAIL) Program.

The SHIP funds aim to help local governments provide affordable housing options for families in need.

“SHIP dollars may be used to fund emergency repairs, new construction, rehabilitation, down payment and closing cost assistance, impact fees, construction and gap financing, mortgage buy-downs, acquisition of property for affordable housing, matching dollars for federal housing grants and programs, and homeownership counseling,” reads a state explainer on the budget website.

SAIL money is used at the state level to give low-interest loans to developers willing to build affordable housing. “SAIL funds serve to bridge the gap between primary financing and the total cost of the development,” the state explains. “This allows developers to obtain the full financing needed to construct or rehabilitate affordable multifamily units.”

Affordable housing has been a touchy topic for years when it comes to budget negotiations. The Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund, which helps fund the SHIP and SAIL programs, has been repeatedly depleted, with its funds diverted back in the general revenue fund, to be used on non-housing projects.

Jaimie Ross of the Sadowski Coalition — a nonpartisan collection of groups supporting additional affordable housing aid — thanked DeSantis for pushing for this money.

“The Governor recognizes the integral role the Sadowski trust fund plays in Florida, and we appreciate his continued leadership and support for affordable housing,” Ross said.

“This money is needed to repair and produce housing that is desperately needed by Florida’s essential workforce and most vulnerable residents. It is needed to help Florida families to become homeowners at a time when interest rates are low. And it is needed for households that cannot pay rent or make mortgage payments due to the COVID-19 crisis and do not qualify for the restrictive federal assistance.”

The Florida Housing Finance Corporation, the state’s housing finance agency, predictably backs the proposal as well.

“Since taking office, Gov. Ron DeSantis has been a strong advocate for housing,” says Florida Housing Executive Director Trey Price.

“Together, the Governor and the Legislature appropriated more than $550 million for fiscal year 2020-21 in housing, disaster relief and pandemic funding, while aiding tens of thousands to find safe, stable, affordable housing. This money also provided significant economic impact in communities throughout our state.”

Added Florida Housing Board Chairman Ron Lieberman, “Providing sustainable, affordable housing for families in Florida continues to be the mission of Gov. DeSantis and the Florida Housing Finance Corporation. Our continued commitment and this funding will go a long way in assisting households that are most in need, especially as we recover from this pandemic.”

It remains to be seen whether the Governor’s recommendations on housing funds will stick through this Session’s negotiations, which are sure to be intense. While questions have been raised about the pandemic’s impact on state revenues, this year’s $96.6 billion budget proposal is $4.3 billion larger than last year’s final budget.

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