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Guest Commentary: Affordable housing unattainable in Florida

January 10, 2018
By Paulette Burdick , Lehigh Acres Citizen

Florida is in the midst of an affordable housing crisis. Unfortunately, our governor and state lawmakers are only making matters worse.

Our state leaders continue to engage in a rob-Peter-to-pay-Paul money grab that has contributed to a shortage of affordable housing across Florida.

Don't be confused about the definition of affordable housing. It's not strictly housing for poor people. If you spend more than 30 percent of your income on rent or for a mortgage, your housing is unaffordable.

What used to be a "South Florida problem" is now popping up in other communities throughout the state. The problem is creeping north to Orlando and Lakeland, where median home prices of $247,000 are rising far faster than the median salaries of $54,000.

The bottom line unfortunately is that fewer Floridians can afford a home. Their salaries simply aren't keeping pace with the rising costs of rents and mortgages. State government has a remedy, the William Sadowski Housing Trust Fund which is a state revenue designated for affordable housing. It uses doc stamp surcharges on real estate transactions to help develop more reasonably priced housing in Florida.

Unfortunately, our governor and Legislature continue taking the Sadowski funds intended for affordable housing for other priorities, like pet legislative projects, staff salaries and tax cuts.

In his proposed 2018-19 budget, Gov. Rick Scott recommended taking $154 million from the Sadowski fund to pay for other state expenses.

Floridians need the Sadowski funds to ensure reasonably priced housing costs. Affordable housing provides stability by ensuring employees and businesses that local workers can live near their jobs.

The good news is that Florida can reverse a long and devastating trend of budget hijinks. Communicate with State leaders - "Use the Sadowski's estimated $322 million for its intended purpose - affordable housing".

In this upcoming legislative session, state lawmakers should keep the Sadowski funds intact and spend the money on options to stem high-priced housing.

- Paulette Burdick is Palm Beach County Commissioner



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