After years of diverting billions of dollars meant for affordable housing to other projects, state lawmakers delivered what housing advocates asked for and fully funded programs to help people stay in their homes and aid the construction of affordable housing.
For years state lawmakers have neglected “Sadowski” housing funds — raised every year by a portion of stamp tax for real estate deals — by diverting money into general revenue programs. Last year they moved half of future funds into sea-level rise and water management projects.
South Florida is in the midst of an affordability crisis where rents and home prices skyrocket because there is not enough supply to meet demand.
Housing advocates worried when they saw budget documents this year, leaving tens of millions of dollars out of the programs — again. However, in last-minute negotiations between Florida House and Senate leaders pumped the most money into the program in 16 years.
It’s been a bumpy three years for Keisha Guyton. She says her old landlord sold the duplex she was renting out, forcing her to move out, and since then she’s been living with her mother in Miami Gardens.
“Just like everyone can go to public school, everyone should have a home to stay in,” Guyton said.
The NBC 6 Investigators get results
Even with a government voucher to help her pay, the mother of two says she hasn’t been able to find an apartment of her own. She was laid off during the pandemic and says without a job, it’s hard to get accepted by apartment managers.
“We, the tenants, we’re struggling out here and we need more assistance from our politicians,” Guyton said.
She is one of the dozens of people who told NBC 6 they cannot find an affordable place to live.
“It’s not easy for us to pick up and move anywhere,” Liron Padlon told us earlier in Aventura.
“What happens in a few years when I won't be able to work anymore? I’m going to be homeless,” Lourdes Bombalier told us in Kendall.
Lack of supply is part of the problem and state lawmakers have been making it worse for years. NBC 6 Investigators found in the past, they have diverted $2.3 billion meant for affordable housing “Sadowski” funds to other projects.
This year, Florida House leaders wanted to remove tens of millions more from that other half, not fully funding the program.
“It didn’t look good at the beginning. There was a lot of nail-biting,” Jaimie Ross, CEO of the Florida Housing Coalition, said.
Ross was relieved when she saw the final budget of more than $360 million for affordable housing programs next year. That includes $18.7 million for Broward County projects and $16.6 million for Miami-Dade projects.
A good budget, she said, after many, many bad ones for housing.
"That’s a lot of housing that didn’t get built or repaired,” Ross said. “There’s a lot of catching up to do.”
“Gov. DeSantis will continue to advocate to fully fund affordable housing in Florida and remains committed to addressing workforce housing needs for Florida’s growing economy,” Christina Pushaw, press secretary for Gov. Ron DeSantis, said.
“The House obviously feels strongly about homeownership — it lifts people up, putting them on a strong trajectory towards a more prosperous future,” Jenna Sarkissian, spokesperson for House Speaker Chris Sprowls, said.
“Florida cannot independently fix or outrun all of the problems leading to the cost increases that are wreaking havoc on families, but we can do more to make sure housing is affordable so that those who provide critical services can live in the communities they serve,” Senate President Wilton Simpson said.
There are two big pots of money for the “Sadowski” funds: SHIP and SAIL. SHIP helps individual homeowners with down payments, repairs and rental assistance. That money should be going out within the next year. SAIL money goes to help developers build more affordable housing units and it takes a bit longer to turn into physical housing, around two or three years.
On top of the SHIP and SAIL money, lawmakers funded $100 million to the “Hometown Heroes” program, helping firefighters, teachers and police officers keep up with rising home prices.