Florida House and Senate split on affordable housing money

March 27, 2013 

TALLAHASSEE -- Looks like House Republicans are alone in completely stripping a trust fund set aside for helping homeowners hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis.

Gov. Rick Scott and Senate Republicans have different plans.

So it will have money for pet projects, the House plans to rake the entire $200 million Sadowski Fund, of which about 70 percent is used to pay for rehabilitation and renovation of existing homes and down payment and closing cost assistance for those who qualify. In its place, Republicans will spend $200 million from a mortgage settlement with major banks on a variety of affordable housing concerns.

Housing advocates say the needs of those homeowners who need assistance has never been higher, and have called the House plan a “shell-game” that does little to help.

By comparison, Scott leaves about $50 million in his budget for current homeowners who need assistance so they can avoid foreclosure. On Wednesday, Senate Republicans announced they will leave $70 million for current homeowners with a special aim at helping disabled homeowners. By contrast, the House had a special aim to help those in desired professions, such as teaching.

Such a disparity was expected. On Monday, Rep. Ed Hooper, R-Clearwater, who oversees the House spending plan for affordable housing, said there’s room for negotiation.

“It’s not a done deal yet,” Hooper said.

Here's the Senate plan for housing spending:

Senate Committee Discusses Plan for National Mortgage Settlement Funds Proposal Focuses on Housing Needs of Disabled, Elderly, Homeless and Extremely Low Income Floridians

Tallahassee–The Senate Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development, chaired by Senator Andy Gardiner (R-Orlando), today reviewed draft legislation regarding more than $200 million in National Mortgage Settlement funds available to be appropriated by the Florida Legislature during the 2013 Legislative Session.

The Senate proposal is outlined below.

“Our proposal appropriately prioritizes available funding for those most in need of housing assistance: person with disabilities, homeless individuals and families, low income seniors and other extremely low income Floridians who can best utilize affordable housing options,” said Chair Gardiner. “Our plan also ensures the Judicial Branch continues to receive the support necessary to address ongoing workload issues associated with the foreclosure backlog, and sets aside funding for prevention efforts including counseling, promotional campaigns and most importantly assistance for those at risk of losing their homes to foreclosure.”

“I look forward to working with our colleagues in the House as this legislation moves through the process,” continued Chair Gardiner. “I’m confident that we can reach an agreement on the best way to meet our shared goal of utilizing this funding to help Florida continue to recover from the devastating effects of the foreclosure crisis.”

$145 million – Housing Assistance Focused on Disabled, Elderly, Homeless and Extremely Low Income Floridians

$65 million through the State Apartment Incentive Loan (SAIL) Program. Persons with Disabilities – Up to 15 percent of units designed, constructed and targeted for individuals with developmental, hearing, visual or mobility disabilities, including disabled veterans. Elderly and Extremely Low Income (ELI) – All other affordable housing units will provide reduced-rent units to serve elderly and extremely low income tenants. To the extent possible, ELI units will be part of the Florida Housing Finance Corporations “Link Initiative” which focuses on persons with disabilities, homeless families, youth aging out of foster care, frail elders, survivors of domestic violence and others receiving community-based support services.

$70 million through the State House Initiatives Partnership (SHIP) Program. Persons with Disabilities – Specifies that each local government must use a minimum of 20 percent of funding to serve persons with special needs, specifically persons with developmental, hearing, visual or mobility disabilities, including disabled veterans, with an emphasis on independent living. Uses existing allocation methodology to distribute funding to all 67 counties and 52 eligible cities. Specifies a number of required strategies for local governments to utilize when distributing funding including: (1) rehabilitating or modifying owner-occupied houses (including blighted homes or neighborhoods); (2) assisting with the purchase of existing houses; (3) housing counseling services; (4) lease-purchase acceptance; and (5) other approved strategies to assist households and communities impacted by foreclosure, using existing housing stock.

$10 million In Competitive Grants for Extremely Low Income and Homeless Individuals and Families Grant funding for private non-profit organizations to purchase and renovate housing for extremely low income, homeless adults. Grant funding for private non-profit organizations to provide small specialty housing for homeless families.

$50 million – Support for Judicial Branch to Address Foreclosure Cases State Courts

$25 million over two years to address the foreclosure backlog. Clerks of Court

$15 million over two years to process foreclosure cases. Legal Aid Programs

$10 million to be funded through the Office of the Attorney General for individuals experiencing foreclosure or at eminent risk of foreclosure on their homestead residence.

$5 million – Foreclosure Prevention

$2 million for the Attorney General to conduct promotional campaigns.

$3 million for the Florida Housing Finance Corporation to administer the programs funded with the proceeds of the National Mortgage Settlement.

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