By Tony Veldkamp, 2022 President of the REALTOR® Association of Sarasota and Manatee
Senior Commercial Advisor, SVN Commercial Advisory Group

SARASOTA, Fla. (September 5, 2022) –  Last week, thousands of REALTORS® met in Orlando for the annual Florida REALTORS® Convention and Trade Expo. From the Florida Keys to Pensacola and Naples to Jacksonville, attendees traveled across the state to attend educational classes, seminars, business meetings and to hear from some special guests including businesswoman Martha Stewart, Florida CFO Jimmy Patronis and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. While this is a great event for REALTORS® to meet, learn and network, it was also a time to celebrate the successes that Florida REALTORS® have had in their continual fight to advocate for the real estate profession and you, our customers.

Your friends at the state and local REALTOR® Associations are always advocating for legislation that help make our communities stronger and better places to live. We are fighting to protect your private property rights to help maintain your property’s value in addition to all the real estate values in our community. Many things are discussed at the state level that appear to be good ideas on the outside, but once you study their impact you find they can directly affect your ability to use your property and protect your investment.

Some of the items championed by Florida REALTORS® this year include:

Hometown Heroes Program

This new $100 million revolving loan program is for qualified firefighters, law enforcement officers, teachers, nurses and other hometown hero professionals. The program reduces the upfront costs for these homebuyers by providing zero-interest loans to help with down payment and closing costs. The loan is repaid once the home is sold, rented or refinanced, creating a continuous cycle of homeownership for some of Florida’s most essential workers. This program took effect on July 1 and has already had numerous applicants.

Affordable housing

Florida REALTORS® advocated for lawmakers to allocate $262 million in the 2022-2023 fiscal year budget to the State and Local Government Housing Trust Funds, which fund the State Housing Initiatives Partnership and State Apartment Incentive Loan programs. These longstanding affordable housing programs provide homeownership and rental assistance to low-income Floridians.

‘Home hardening’ and other tax breaks

The “home hardening” initiative, which was a Florida REALTORS® legislative priority this year, provides sales tax relief to homeowners to harden their homes from storms. The bill also includes an abatement of all property taxes for owners of Surfside condominiums, prorated refunds of property taxes on residential properties rendered uninhabitable by a catastrophic event for at least 30 days, a sales tax reduction on new mobile homes and several sales tax holidays.

Florida Everglades restoration and water quality

More than $1.6 billion was allocated by the Florida Legislature for projects that improve Florida’s water quality. The 2022-2023 fiscal year budget includes money for Everglades restoration ($425 million), Lake Okeechobee watershed restoration ($450 million), springs restoration ($75 million), beaches ($50 million), Biscayne Bay ($20 million), the Wastewater Grant Program ($125 million) and the Resilient Florida Grant Program ($470 million).

Priorities for Florida REALTORS® over the next twelve months will include additional initiatives to protect our customers and preserve their property rights for both residential and commercial properties.

Some of the additional priorities include:

Condo reform: In the wake of the Surfside tragedy, REALTORS® want greater transparency from condo associations and greater ease of getting documents related to maintenance and budgets for both our buyers and sellers of condominiums.

Insurance: We can all agree that we are in an insurance crisis in Florida. Florida REALTORS® are fighting every day for reforms and legislation to ease this burden for all Floridians.

Rent control: While we can all agree that rental prices in Florida have risen way beyond where prices should be, REALTORS® do not believe that rent controls are the answer to the problem. You would not be happy if someone dictated or controlled what price you could sell your car for, or your couch, or your Tesla stock, so why would it be appropriate to tell someone what they can rent their privately-owned home or apartment for? REALTORS® will fight local and state ordinances on rent control, and help champion other initiatives, such as increasing the housing supply, to create more affordable homes and rentals.

So, while you may have thought REALTORS® are only there for you when it’s time to buy or sell your home or commercial property, REALTORS® are always there for you fighting for your rights, and for opportunities to make Manatee and Sarasota counties a great place to live.

This article was originally published in the Herald-Tribune.