Florida’s largest trade group, the Florida Association of Realtors, has finally had enough. After years of watching lawmakers in Tallahassee divert hundreds of millions of dollars from the state’s affordable housing trust fund to balance the state budget and pay for a range of special projects, this year, lawmakers apparently went too far.
Rather than just take their regular cut of cash from the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, which can typically amass $400 million or more in funding for financially challenged families in a given year through the collection of documentary stamp taxes on other home sales and real estate transactions, this year, lawmakers passed SB 2512, a bill that not only sweeps hundreds of millions out of the fund to use for other purposes but also makes the sweep permanent and automatic.
After Governor Ron DeSantis signed the measure into law, Florida Realtors have decided to play for keeps, too. The group has ponied up $5 million on a bet that a supermajority of Florida voters will sign off on a constitutional amendment to restore the trust fund back to its original state so the funds are used for the original purpose, helping families get off the waitlist and into a permanent home.
The Florida Department of State issued its initial approval to the proposal by a political committee called Floridians for Housing. Florida Realtors provided $5 million to the committee since March 31, according to campaign finance reports.
The Realtors are seeking to restore the Trust Fund by making it a permanent fixture in the state constitution that would dedicate 25 percent of revenues from the documentary-stamp tax collections. If approved by voters, state lawmakers could no longer raid the trust fund and use it for other purposes.
A summary of the proposed ballot language says “Funds may be expended only to address affordable housing access and availability, including funding of programs addressing new construction, down payment and closing cost assistance, rehabilitation and financing for affordable housing development.”
To get on the 2022 ballot, Florida Realtors and other backers need to submit just under 900,000 valid petition signatures by February 1st, 2022. They’ll also need the Florida Supreme Court to sign off on the proposal’s wording to ensure it meets state standards for voter comprehension and clarity.