Lawmakers propose protections for Florida's affordable housing trust fund


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Florida Rep. Tina Polsky and Sen. Lori Berman filed companion measures Friday that would require the repayment of funds swept from the Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund

The Sadowski fund was created by the Florida Legislature in 1992. Its purpose is to create a dedicated revenue source for affordable housing.

In recent years, though, the GOP-controlled Legislature has continually used the funds for other projects. Last year, following the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that claimed 17 lives, state lawmakers used millions from the fund to boost school security. In 2017, former Gov. Rick Scott plugged the money into economic projects.

This year, there have been hints that some lawmakers are pushing to use the funds to help pay for Hurricane Michael recovery efforts.

"I believe the funds should be reimbursed if swept so that desperately needed affordable housing in all of Florida, and specifically in areas of urgent need, remain a high priority in the budget," says Polsky, D-Boca Raton, in a news release.

In the Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford area, only 17 rental units are available for every 100 extremely low-income renters, according to a 2018 report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

Meanwhile, renters in Orlando must earn a minimum of $16.33 an hour – which translates to $33,690 a year – to afford a studio apartment and not be cost-burdened, which is when a household spends more than 30 percent of its income on rent and utilities.

"No one should have to choose between paying for their rent or putting food on the table," says Berman, D-Boynton Beach. "By protecting the dollars in the Sadowski Trust Fund we are taking a critical step in ensuring a prosperous future for all Floridians."

The legislative session kicks off Tuesday, March 5.

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