Housing Justice is Environmental Justice - Florida Conservation Voters
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Housing Justice is Environmental Justice

FCV advocates for healthy communities for everyone. We advocate for clean air and water, plentiful and accessible parks for all, and reduced carbon emissions statewide. 

As an organization dedicated to environmental advocacy work, we often get put in a box. We are told to stay in our lane when it comes to the issues that threaten healthy communities: institutional racism, voting rights rollbacks, affordable housing, COVID-19 relief, tax cuts for corporations, and other many issues that our opposition wants to ignore. In our five years of advocacy, we know that a movement divided is a movement without momentum. And right now, legislators are trying to pit environmental activists against housing activists by permanently diverting affordable housing funds to wastewater, resiliency, and infrastructure projects.

FCV does not support raiding affordable housing funds to pay for wastewater upgrades and other projects. “This annual budgetary contortionist act is a distraction from the legislature’s refusal to raise revenue and absolute failure to meet the needs of everyday Floridians,” said Executive Director Aliki Moncrief in a press statement. 

“It is the stated goal of the Florida Legislature that every Floridian shall have decent and affordable housing. Yet, it has become commonplace for our governors and budget leaders to pay for tax breaks by siphoning money away from affordable housing programs to fill budget gaps in other areas,” said Aliki. “To build healthy communities for everyone, we need housing security and wastewater infrastructure. We can have both if the legislature is willing to fully fund needed programs, not ensure tax breaks for corporate interests. Now is the time to invest in Floridians, not raid needed resources.”

Just like the Land and Acquisition Trust Fund (LATF), the Sadowski State and Local Housing Trust Funds are misappropriated or swept to general revenue, or underfunded every year. Just like conservation lands, Florida also has a shortage of and a great need for affordable housing. And just like conservation programs, making  the big real estate purchases and private-public partnerships that house and help Floridians requires consistent funding. Lawmakers should use both trust funds as intended: to acquire conservation lands and to provide affordable housing. With such core needs – housing and a clean, safe environment – the legislature must go above and beyond to make sure every Floridian is able to not just survive, but thrive. 

The environmental justice movement addresses an undeniable fact: people who live, work, and play in America’s most polluted environments are commonly people of color and working people. Environmental justice issues take many forms and differ across the state, from dirty diesel school buses to toxic metal smelting sites, landfills, gentrification, and displacement. These injustices result from the inequitable distribution of the benefits and burdens of our systems. Low-income families and Black and Latinx people are also more likely to live in housing with poor insulation and old appliances, leading to energy inefficiency and high utility costs. They also most likely live in areas with wastewater and stormwater failures and low investment in needed upgrades. 

As Senator Wilton Simpson said in support of raiding affordable housing funds, “We have a tendency to create programs that sound great, but which we don’t actually fund.” There is truth in this statement, and thankfully, Florida already has a solution for funding wastewater upgrades. The wastewater revolving loan fund is funded by the state at the bare minimum year after year. To make needed wastewater infrastructure upgrades, Florida has proven programs like the wastewater and stormwater revolving loan fund. The last thing our legislators should be doing right now is raid needed resources for the ongoing housing crisis.

The choices made at our state capitol impact communities at home. Legislators’ failures to act on behalf of low-income communities are many, such as widespread utility disconnections, a disastrous unemployment system, lackluster water quality standards and pollution enforcement, and the repeated local government power grabs that silence communities. Traditionally, environmental activists have stayed out of housing and justice matters. But at FCV, we believe that we are stronger when we unite across issue areas – in fact, that is the only way that we can successfully fight for healthy communities for everyone.

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