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Florida realtors backing plan for affordable housing in state

Florida realtors backing plan for affordable housing in state
Published: Jul. 28, 2021 at 6:44 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - Florida Realtors are backing a plan to change the constitution to guarantee more money goes into affordable housing in Florida.

They’re starting out with a $13 million war chest.

Every mortgage transaction, deed, stock transfer or written obligation to pay money is subject to a documentary tax in Florida.

The tax is 70 cents on every $100.

As of May, the state had collected a whopping $1.2 billion for the fiscal year.

By law, a fourth of it has been going into an affordable housing trust fund.

“Every single year, a portion of the housing trust funds are swept to the state’s general revenues,” said Christina Pappas with the Florida Realtors Association.

But this year, state lawmakers cut the funding for affordable housing in half, directing the money to sea level rise and septic to sewer projects.

The cut, or shift, has prompted Florida realtors to put $13 million behind a constitutional amendment.

The initiative seeks to restore affordable housing’s share of the tax back to 25 percent.

“If you are a school teacher, a firefighter, a nurse, you typically can’t afford to have the downpayment that you need,” said Pappas.

But the effort has angered incoming Senate President Kathleen Passidomo.

“I said to them, I’ll be honest with you, you declared war on the Florida Legislature,” said Passidomo.

The realtors amendment requires two thirds of the money go to the purchase of housing, raising questions if realtors are trying to guarantee themselves a pay check.

Realtors need just shy of 223,000 signatures for the Supreme Court to review it.

“We must challenge it,” said Passidomo.

If they get them, Passidomo said lawmakers will ask the court to throw it off the ballot.

“One, because I believe it’s misleading. And number two. It would impact our constitutional duty to pass a balanced budget,” said Passidomo.

But if the realtors make it to the 2022 ballot, they expect smooth sailing because affordable housing is a problem statewide.

Some Senators also see the amendment as self serving, arguing most of the amendment’s money would go do down payment assistance, which amounts to commission for realtors.

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