Affordable housing hits the crisis stage

A couple of weeks ago, the topic of affordable housing came up over lunch. I was appalled at what I learned. In South Florida, it’s become so bad that we are now in a crisis, leading the nation in the highest wage-to-housing discrepancy gap.

More than half of our workforce cannot afford to pay their rent, and are paying 50 percent or more of their income on housing alone. Forget about saving to buy a home. Call it the dark side of our residential boom, but I don’t think our business leaders are aware of this problem.

I want to bring to light a stark fact. Our Florida Legislature is short changing us. Affordable housing is supposed to be partially supported by the Sadowski State and Local Housing Trust Funds. When someone buys real estate in the Sunshine State, a documentary stamp tax is paid on the transaction. That portion is funneled into the Sadowski funds, which are intended for affordable housing development, but the Legislature is not allocating all of the the funds into housing programs. Instead, they are being used for general revenue purposes.

In fiscal year 2014-15, Broward County sent nearly $30.8 million in doc stamp tax to Tallahassee, and we only got a fraction of it back—$11.342 million, according to the Coordinating Council of Broward.

The Coordinating Council compiled its information from multiple sources and SFBW was not able to immediately compile numbers for the other South Florida counties. But the Miami Herald reported that since 2008, lawmakers have swept roughly $1.3 billion from the statewide collected funds of $1.87 billion and moved them into the general fund.

It is estimated that there is $292.37 million available for appropriation in the Sadowski Housing Trust Funds for fiscal 2017-18. If this money is used for Florida’s affordable housing programs, it will create 28,700 Florida jobs and $3.78 billion in positive economic impact in Florida, according to the Sadowski Coalition, comprised of 30 statewide organizations, including the Florida Realtors, Florida Home Builders Association, the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Florida Legal Services and the Florida Catholic Conference.

What does this means for employers? For one, a tough time with recruitment. Employee candidates are continuously turning down job offers to find work in cities with more affordable living options.

We’ll see more homelessness as families are only one paycheck away from financial distress. And we’ll see productivity hit a decline, as workers are overly stressed.

As the region’s business leaders, we need to step up and fight the Legislature. We need to lobby together to get our fair share. If we don’t, the repercussions are too huge.

South Florida needs affordable housing for our workforce, for the health of our economy, and most importantly, for our people.

Please join me in taking action.

Gary Press

Publisher

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