I am writing to express Florida Conservation Voters’ opposition to HB 5401/SB2512 and urge you to oppose these bills as they are currently drafted.
The proposed budget allocation would permanently reduce the Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund by two-thirds, reallocating funds to the relatively new Wastewater Grant Program and the proposed Resilient Florida Grant Program. The plan would cut funding for affordable housing by more than $280 million1 at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic remains an ongoing public health and economic crisis for Florida communities. More than 400,000 Florida households (15% percent of all renters) now face the risk of eviction, which is the second-highest rate of eviction insecurity in the country.2
Wastewater treatment infrastructure upgrades and climate resilience are critical issues that our organizations have championed and continue to support. However, we reject any attempt to fund these programs at the expense of affordable housing. This funding reallocation creates a false choice between protecting the environment, preparing for the future, and protecting Florida’s most vulnerable residents.
Each of these programs have been underfunded for decades, in spite of their importance and popularity among Floridians. The misdirection of documentary stamp funds away from their traditional and voter-approved uses has been a long-standing source of frustration for Florida residents committed to environmental protection and the development of affordable housing. Since 2015, the Florida Legislature has misappropriated approximately $1.5 billion of funds from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund, despite the explicit direction given in Article X, Section 28 of the Florida Constitution.3 Similarly, affordable housing advocates have also seen large sums diverted away from relevant trust funds into general revenue to the detriment of renters and vulnerable Floridians across the state.
The Florida Legislature should fund each of these critical infrastructure categories independently. There are numerous alternatives for funding these programs, including:
The State of Florida is due to receive $10 billion from the federal government through the recently passed American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. This funding is marked with certain requirements for acceptable uses, including making investments in water and sewer infrastructure as well as providing assistance to Floridians. In addition, the state is poised to close a loophole on internet sales taxes that promises to produce approximately $1 billion in revenue each year. It is unthinkable that in light of all this additional revenue coming into the state, legislators would choose to instead raid existing funds set aside for affordable housing.
This decision is particularly egregious in light of the unnecessary and wasteful projects still slated to receive funding, including $132 million for the M-CORES toll road project which has been overwhelmingly rejected by the public as a wasteful use of limited resources and needless degradation of habitat in environmentally sensitive areas.
A budget is a statement of values. We urgently need to fund climate resilience and wastewater infrastructure but doing so at the expense of affordable housing does not align with the environmental and climate justice values that our organizations have committed to uphold. As such, we cannot support this decision and urge lawmakers to reject this proposal.