This is your wake-up call, Florida, and we need your help to save affordable housing. Last week, lawmakers in Tallahassee pushed forward two bills – HB 5401 and SB 2512 – that would permanently redirect two-thirds of the housing trust funds each year to sea level rise and wastewater infrastructure projects.

That’s some serious money that won’t be available to teachers, firefighters, nurses and other essential workers for housing assistance. If this legislation passes, 66% of the $423 million available in the housing trust funds will go toward priorities other than housing, denying countless hard-working Floridians a shot at the American dream of homeownership.

Since its creation nearly 30 years ago, the State Housing Initiative Program has received $2.6 billion from the housing trust funds, helping hundreds of thousands of Florida households with down payment and closing cost assistance, among other housing programs. A $423 million investment into these programs next year would create 33,000 jobs and have a positive economic impact of $4.9 billion. That’s sound policy as we seek to restore our economy to a pre-pandemic state.

Monies for the housing trust funds come from a portion of the documentary stamp taxes charged on every real estate transaction. In 1992, Realtors advocated for this tax — 10 cents per $100 of value — with the expectation that all monies collected went to housing programs.

But for years, that hasn’t happened.

During years of budget shortfalls, legislators swept more than $2.3 billion collected for the housing trust funds into general revenue. And now, when the people of Florida are experiencing pandemic-related challenges that include a critical shortage of affordable, attainable housing, lawmakers want to reduce these vital “trust” funds to the lowest level of all.

Today, the economic impacts of the pandemic, combined with record-high housing prices and a rapidly growing population mean affordable housing is becoming harder than ever to find in our state. Housing has been our refuge, office, childcare and more. Essential workers, our first and last line of defense, would be left with one less option to secure housing, be it down payment or rental assistance.

Florida Realtors is the voice for millions of property owners who have paid into the housing trust funds. On their behalf, know that we appreciate the need to fund other priorities. But affordable housing IS a priority now more than ever in this post-pandemic economy. Affordable housing IS a priority for the elderly on fixed incomes and low-income families. Affordable housing IS a priority for teachers, firefighters, first responders and others who serve our communities.

Our essential workers have guided us through the pandemic, and the housing trust funds should be available to help them achieve the American dream of homeownership.

House Bill 5401 and Senate Bill 2512 are moving fast and have already reached the floors of their respective legislative chambers. It’s time for all Floridians to take a stand and tell their state representatives and senators that they do not support a permanent 66% reduction of the housing trust funds.

Visit TODAY to tell your elected leaders to abandon these proposals and use the housing trust funds for housing!