Florida Housing’s Cinderella dilemma

From a newsletter by Peter Schorsch, editor of FloridaPolitics.com

September 19, 2020


Compared to the $2.2 trillion allocated when the president signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act in March, the $250 million of that money allotted to the Florida Housing Finance Corporation seems like small change.

But it makes a world of difference to tens of thousands Floridians impacted by the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic who can take advantage of rent and mortgage assistance programs administered by Florida Housing.

The first waves of money started being sent out in early August, said Florida Housing Executive Director Trey Price. The organization, which serves as the steward of state and federal affordable housing money, recently approved an additional $45 million in relief funds, expected to be disbursed in early October.

Florida Housing has allotted $120 million in assistance to residents of 551 affordable multifamily rental housing developments in the organization’s housing portfolio. According to the corporation, the funding will assist over 10,000 rental households in the state.

Two million dollars is set aside to provide funds for 33 special needs or homeless developments overseen by Florida Housing, to pay for coronavirus-related expenses such as extra staffing and cleaning services and supplies.

“These are properties that require more human interaction, so there needs to be additional cleaning. There needs to be additional time paid for people to do that,” Price explained. “Those are generally nonprofit-run developments having some issues with having to pay more money to take care of their folks.”

Another $120 million is being funneled to all 67 Florida counties and several cities to assist homeowners and renters through a modified version of its existing SHIP (State Housing Initiatives Partnership) program. Within funding guidelines, participating local governments can prioritize how they use the money in their communities.

“We’ve worked with our local government partners to make (SHIP) more flexible, but it needs to essentially be three things: rental assistance, mortgage assistance and, in some rare cases, emergency repairs in which work can be done and paid for by the end of the year,” Price said.

That’s because Florida Housing faces a Cinderella dilemma — they must spend the money by the end of 2020, or it disappears.

“As of right now, unless Congress miraculously passes something that extends the deadline, the deadline is Dec. 30,” Price said.

This is not to say Florida Housing is handing out money willy-nilly.

Local SHIP offices operated by local governments currently do similar work every Florida county. “There is at least a part-time staff person or a full-time staff person that deals with housing issues for local government (and) bigger cities like Orlando, Miami and others,” he said. “The money is not going directly to the tenant or the mortgagee. The money is linked to the landlords and going to the lenders. So that’s taking a large portion of concern completely out of it because the money is going to where it’s owed.”

For more information about Florida Housing’s Coronavirus Relief Fund, visit its website or call 1-888-362-7885.

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