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May is Advocacy Month

May is Advocacy Month

REALTORS® bring home $362 million for homeownership and other programs

 

May is Advocacy Month and, as always, NEFAR joins Florida Realtors® as an eagle-eyed watchdog, keeping close surveillance on issues going before the legislature in Tallahassee that are important to REALTORS® and homeowners, such as rising property insurance costs and the need for affordable housing.

NEFAR’s 11,000-plus members are among the 225,000 REALTORS® that the state association represents throughout Florida. The Florida Realtors’® legislative team takes its mission to shape public policy on real property issues very seriously.

The end of the 2022 Legislative session brought a resounding victory for homeownership throughout the state, and by working hand-in-hand with state lawmakers, Florida Realtors® successfully advocated for $362 million for homeownership and other related housing programs. This amount includes $100 million for the state REALTOR® community’s biggest legislative priority, the Hometown Hero Housing Program.

During the 2022 session, Florida Realtors® legislative team was also able to work with lawmakers to ensure Florida voters have an opportunity during the November election to express their support for front-line workers and educators who already own a home by approving an additional homestead property tax exemption on $50,000 of the assessed value of homestead property.

These two homeownership initiatives are in addition to the $262 million that has been allocated for the state’s existing homeownership and rental programs that serve low-income Florida residents.

In addition to homeownership-related accomplishments, the Florida Realtors’ advocacy team also achieved notable success by championing several other initiatives including a defense of private property rights, targeted tax breaks for Floridians, and a significant amount of environmental funding that will assist in keeping the state’s waterways, springs, and beaches clean.

Two other burning issues – rising property insurance costs and transparency of condominium association records – were also on the REALTORS® legislative agenda for 2022. Unfortunately, no major reforms were passed on these issues in the last session, however the REALTOR® community will continue to lobby for reform in these areas in the months and years ahead.

 

Hometown Hero Housing Program

 

It’s no secret that Florida is experiencing a housing affordability crisis. The pandemic, a growing population, and other economic factors have put increasing pressure on housing for many Floridians.

Homeownership is often out of reach for many front-line workers and educators, whose salaries fall well below the amount needed to buy a home. While some of these professionals earn enough to afford a monthly payment, many cannot save for the down payment needed to qualify for a competitive mortgage. That is where the Hometown Hero Housing Program comes in. Effective July 1, 2022, this new revolving loan program reduces upfront costs 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.

The Hometown Hero Housing Program complements existing federal, state, and local efforts to increase affordable housing opportunities for Floridians. It is similar in structure to the successful Salute Our Soldiers Military Loan Program administered by the Florida Housing Finance Corporation.

 

Affordable Housing Programs

 

Lawmakers allocated $262 million in the 2022-2023 fiscal year budget (House Bill 5001) to the State and Local Government Housing Trust Funds, which fund the State Housing Initiatives Partnership (SHIP) and State Apartment Incentive Loan programs (SAIL). These long-standing affordable housing programs provide homeownership and rental assistance to low-income Floridians. Specifically, SHIP funds provide first-time homebuyers with down payment and closing cost assistance and are used to preserve existing housing. SAIL funds are used to rehabilitate existing apartments in dire need of repair or to build new units where needed. This legislation become effective July 1, 2022.

 

Home hardening and other tax breaks

 

House Bill 7071 included the “home hardening” initiative, which was a 2022 Florida Realtors® legislative priority. It will provide sales tax relief to homeowners who harden their homes from storms. The bill also includes an abatement of all property taxes for owners of Surfside condominiums, pro-rated 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. This legislation becomes effective July 1, 2022.

 

Protecting private property rights 

 

Senate Bill 518 will help protect the rights of property owners who wish to prune, trim, and remove trees that present a danger to their property. Specifically, it strengthens a law passed in 2019 that prohibits local governments from requiring permits for the removal of “dangerous” trees on residential property. This legislation becomes effective July 1, 2022.

 

Coordination of flooding and sea-level-rise resilience efforts

 

House Bill 7053 established the Statewide Office of Resilience within the Governor’s Office, with the governor appointing the Chief Resiliency Officer. It also set a minimum of $100 million in funding to be identified annually in a comprehensive and ranked list of resilience projects. This legislation becomes effective July 1, 2022.

 

More than $1.6 billion for the Everglades and water quality

 

The Florida Legislature has continued to allocate significant funding for projects that improve Florida’s water quality. The 2022-2023 fiscal year budget (House Bill 5001) 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). This includes $100 million for Lake Okeechobee Watershed Restoration and $200 million for the Resilient Grant Program funded through the Federal Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Funds. This legislation becomes effective July 1, 2022.

 

Water-quality solutions

 

House Bill 965 created a public/private partnership-oriented approach to improving water quality in the state by authorizing the creation of water quality enhancement areas, which are natural systems constructed, operated, managed, and maintained to provide offsite regional treatment through enhancement credits. This legislation becomes effective July 1, 2022.

 

New protections from harmful local ordinances

 

Senate Bill 620 allows private, for-profit business owners to recover business damages related to local government ordinances. Private businesses will be able to recover damages from a local government if it creates or changes an ordinance that causes a reduction of at least 15% of the business’s profit. This new law has the potential to help vacation rental property managers recover damages relating to local ordinances that negatively impact their business. This proposal will be effective upon becoming law. This legislation becomes effective July 1, 2022.

 

Preventing unlicensed real estate activity

 

The Legislature allocated up to $500,000 in the 2022-2023 fiscal year budget (House Bill 5001) to combat unlicensed real estate activity. This legislation becomes effective July 1, 2022.

 

 

For a detailed list of all the real estate-related bills that passed this session, visit Florida Realtors® 2022 Legislative Session Report.