Raised real estate taxes not used for their purpose

Tax intended to benefit affordable housing used elsewhere

Author: Mike Vasilinda, Reporter, Capitol News Service
Published On: Feb 25 2014 04:15:39 PM EST   Updated On: Feb 25 2014 04:55:39 PM EST
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -

In 1992, state lawmakers raised the doc stamp tax on real estate transactions from 60 cents to 70 cents on every $100. The cash was to be used for affordable housing.

But when the recession hit, lawmakers started using the money for everything but housing. Advocates say it's now time for the state to fulfill its promise.

Since its inception, the program has spent more than $3 billion on housing.

This year, there is almost $300 million in the trust fund. Yet, on the eve of the legislative session, there are recommendations that none of it be spent on housing.

"We have over 900,000 families who are very low income, who are spending more than half of that income on their housing," said Jaimie Ross, of Sadowski Housing Coalition.

A coalition of bankers, builders, the chamber and others think that spending the money on housing would create more than 27,000 jobs.

"We buy lumber, concrete and other supplies from local businesses," said Rob Lieberman, with Florida Homebuilders.

The problem began growing when the recession hit and lawmakers spent about 80 percent of the money elsewhere.

In addition to helping the poor, the program is also designed to help teachers, fire fighters and police from being priced out of the housing market.

Seventy percent of the spending is decided locally by sustainable housing groups in every county. In rural Gadsden County, the waiting list grows longer every day

"I just have to put people on a waiting list to even make application," said Phyllis Moore, with Gadsden County State Housing Initiative Partnership Program.

In Gadsden County alone, more than 200 people have been put on a waiting list since 2011.

"We're asking that the money that has been statutorily dedicated for housing be used for housing in a year when we have plenty of money to do so," Ross said.