AFFORDABLE HOUSING; 'Scrap the Cap'

Article excerpt

A catchy phrase shouldn't be necessary to lift the cap on the state's housing trust fund.

It should have already registered with lawmakers that a growing number of Floridians are struggling to find affordable homes to buy and apartments to rent.

That is a logical outcome of home prices rising faster than incomes.

The market has also seen skyrocketing land prices and a depleted supply of apartments following the conversion wave.

Lawmakers should need no further evidence that the William E. Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund must be fully available to homeowners. Somehow, they still do.

A SOBERING SNAPSHOT

Perhaps Northeast Florida can provide more incentive.

As the disparity between income and an affordable home has widened, foreclosures and predatory lending have increased.

With most apartments converted to condominiums, workers have been forced to live farther from employment areas.

In extreme cases, such as the closing of two mobile home parks in Mayport, families have become homeless.

Housing task forces have been organized to find solutions.

Inevitably, the same questions are asked:

-- What will it take for state lawmakers to realize that local housing programs must have more revenue?

-- To realize there are continued shortages in critical industries, such as nursing, law enforcement and teaching?

-- To realize there could be a costly hit to the tourism industry, as hotels and restaurants can no longer afford to subsidize employee housing?

The Sadowski Affordable Housing Act was created in 1992 to build a trust fund from a 20-cent increase in documentary stamp taxes.

The fund now has a $940 million balance, according to the Florida Housing Coalition.

Still, the state has insisted on capping it at $243 million next fiscal year.

The Florida House of Representatives' Interim Workgroup on Affordable Housing has spent the last several months preparing recommendations due in February.

REASONS FOR OPTIMISM

Though it still has another meeting, Rep. Jennifer Carroll said the group supports lifting the cap on the Sadowski trust fund.

But, the Green Cove Springs Republican wants local control of the funds. …