The Florida Senate today passed Senate Bill 2512, Documentary Stamp Tax Distributions, and Senate Bill 2514, Resilient Florida Trust Fund. These conforming bills associated with the state budget establish the statewide plan to fund key infrastructure programs previously announced by Florida Senate President Wilton Simpson (R-Trilby) and House Speaker Chris Sprowls (R-Palm Harbor).
The three-part infrastructure plan revises the statutory distribution of documentary stamp proceeds to prioritize investing in state and local affordable housing programs, mitigating the impacts of sea level rise, and enhancing wastewater programs, including septic-to-sewer conversions. The new framework provides predictable funding for all three infrastructure priorities on a recurring basis.
“Floridians have been waiting a long time for comprehensive policy and budget planning that addresses these three critical areas of public policy, and I am pleased to join with Speaker Sprowls and so many of our House and Senate colleagues to vote in favor of this transformative legislation,” said President Simpson. “Nearly every year we end up sweeping documentary stamp money that is dedicated to affordable housing into our general revenue fund to spend it on the needs of the day. We also have a tendency to create programs that sound great, but which we don’t actually fund. This proposal addresses all of these issues by modernizing our documentary stamp distributions to dedicate a steady stream of funding in three key areas of infrastructure – affordable housing, wastewater, and mitigation of sea-level rise.”
Under the distribution outlined in SB 2512, during the upcoming fiscal year, affordable housing programs would receive approximately $200 million. Programs established to mitigate the impacts of sea level rise and enhance wastewater programs would each receive approximately $111 million. Revenue estimates for documentary stamps are updated several times each year.
Enhancing Wastewater and Septic-To-Sewer Programs
Senate Bill 712 (2020), the Clean Waterways Act, sponsored by Senator Debbie Mayfield (R-Melbourne) unanimously passed the House and Senate and was signed into law by Governor DeSantis last year. The bill creates a wastewater grant program within the Department of Environmental Protection to help communities across Florida implement wastewater infrastructure programs, including septic-to-sewer conversions. The program was not funded in the 2020-21 General Appropriations Act.
Mitigating the Impacts of Sea Level Rise
SB 2514 creates the Resilient Florida Trust Fund within the Department of Environmental Protection and provides that the trust fund is established as a depository for documentary stamp revenues dedicated to resiliency projects as provided for in SB 2512.
Affordable Housing Options
Appropriations of state housing funds are only a fraction of the dollars available to operate affordable housing programs. While state spending has averaged $160 million annually over the past five years, available federal resources have averaged $542 million annually. This year, there is an also an additional $1.4 billion for the Federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program for local governments to assist residents faced with affordable housing issues, including rent and utility payments.
The appropriations from the State Housing Trust Fund and the Local Government Housing Trust Fund are administered by the Florida Housing Finance Corporation (FHFC), which is a public corporation of the State of Florida that is administratively housed within the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO).
The FHFC administers both federal and state resources to finance the development and preservation of affordable homeowner and rental housing and to assist homebuyers with financing and down payment assistance. State funding for affordable housing programs is provided from documentary stamp tax revenues that are distributed to the State Housing Trust Fund and the Local Government Housing Trust Fund. The FHFC is also authorized to receive federal funding directly from the federal government for its housing programs; these funds are deposited outside of the State Treasury. In 2020, the FHFC received $789.5 million in federal funds.
In the early years of operation, the FHFC accessed only federal resources to finance housing initiatives. To leverage and augment these programs, the Florida Legislature began appropriating additional funding for state programs in the late 1980s. However, it was the enactment of the William E. Sadowski Affordable Housing Act in 1992 that created a source of revenue for affordable housing from a portion of documentary stamp taxes on the transfer of real estate.
Since the start of Florida’s economic recovery in Fiscal Year 2012-13, documentary stamp tax revenues and the distributions to the housing trust funds have grown rapidly, outpacing annual growth in both the consumer price index and Florida’s population. Each year as part of the budget process, the Legislature determines the use of the revenues in the housing trust funds, in many cases transferring portions of the distribution to the General Revenue Fund. SB 2512 includes language that specifies that funds distributed to the State Housing Trust Fund and the Local Government Housing Trust Fund may not be transferred to the General Revenue Fund in the General Appropriations Act.