Affordable Housing, Florida Response

Dear Mr. Shaw,

Thank you for your recent email regarding funding for affordable housing in Florida. As your State Representative, I appreciate learning of your concerns.

The fiscal challenges we’re experiencing in Tallahassee are a symptom of a slowing economy nationwide, not just in Florida. We are facing an unprecedented $6.3 billion deficit for next fiscal year and will be forced to make tough decisions regarding Florida’s budget.

Let me be clear – I don’t relish the fact that we are being forced to make these tough decisions, but we were elected to serve in good times and in bad, and we are constitutionally mandated to balance the budget. Unlike the federal government, we cannot spend money that we do not have.

As you are aware, over the last ten years we have appropriated $2.8 billion for affordable housing programs. Unfortunately, with continued decreases in state revenues we do not have the resources to fully fund these programs this fiscal year. After much deliberation and consideration, the House’s budget proposal returns $123 million from the Florida Housing Finance Corporation to General Revenue in order to offset reductions to education, health care and public safety. This is a onetime transfer for the 2009-10 Fiscal Year and funding can be restored for next year. It is critical to understand that even though the House isn’t proposing to fund affordable housing this year, Florida will receiving over $559 million in federal stimulus money for affordable housing programs.

Our reductions to the Florida Housing Finance Corporation are not because we do not recognize the importance of affordable housing programs, but rather because we believe Florida is in a unique position at this time. For example, Florida currently has a surplus of 385,000 unsold homes on the market, which is 20 months of inventory. At a time when home prices are plummeting and there is an abundance of affordable housing, adding new housing can actually exacerbate the State’s economic problem. Home prices have also fallen about 20 percent in the past year, making it more affordable than ever to buy.

There are also federal, state and local housing programs that can help buyers purchase existing homes. In the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act the First-Time Homebuyer Tax Credit was increase from $7,500 to $8,000 for purchases on or after January 1, 2009, and before December 1, 2009. The Florida House also has legislation this year, House Joint Resolution 97, provides an additional homestead exemption for a homeowner the first time he or she establishes a homestead in Florida.

Again, thank you for taking the time to share your concerns regarding affordable housing funding. As we continue through the budget process I will keep your thoughts in mind. If I may be of assistance to you in any way, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Sincerely,

Representative Baxter G. Troutman

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