Bankers Group Joining State Lobbying Campaign For Affordable Housing
Written by Eric Kalis on September 6, 2007
By Eric Kalis
Florida bankers are rejoining the campaign for state legislators to boost affordable-housing spending and improve property-tax conditions, officials from a state banking association say.
The Florida Bankers Association plans to revive a coalition of the 119-year-old trade association and affordable-housing advocates from throughout Miami-Dade County to press the Legislature to spend more on affordable housing this fall, said Anthony DiMarco, senior vice president of government affairs at the bankers association. The group faces an uphill battle for funding, Mr. DiMarco said, as the state is expected to trim about $1 billion from its budget and municipalities will have to make up shortfalls from property-tax revenues.
The bankers association and its housing partners unsuccessfully tried during this year’s session to persuade lawmakers to lift a $243 million cap on stamp-tax collections for the Sadowski Housing Fund, he said. Implemented in 1992, the Sadowski fund diverts a percentage of documentary-stamp tax revenue for state and local governments to use for affordable-housing projects. Lifting the cap would allow the state to provide up to $600 million a year for affordable housing, according to the Florida League of Cities.
"We have worked with housing [departments] from counties and cities and other consumer groups to try and get more money for affordable housing," Mr. DiMarco said. "It is one of our battles every year. I think we will revisit that next [legislative session]. The problem is going to be that with the state not having some tax dollars, my guess is [legislators] are not going to want to take a bunch of money and pour it into a trust fund if they need to balance the budget."
With the nature of statewide property-tax reform uncertain, the bankers association will rely on industry professionals and regulators to craft an agenda to bring to the association’s Government Relations Council next month, Mr. DiMarco said. If the council approves the property-tax plan, he said, the push to present ideas to state legislators would begin immediately.
"Last year we had a big summit on property insurance and had banking and insurance regulators come, and insurance agents told us what they heard," he said. For property-tax reform, "we worked with the chambers [of commerce] to get as much info as we could and was part of a group that met with Gov. [Charlie] Crist. Our voice is that property taxes is a problem, but don’t forget the commercial side. We have been told that statutory [reform] would help the commercial side but are not 100% sure of that."
Association officials are monitoring a leftover bill from last session on debt-cancellation products, Mr. DiMarco said. The bill would give state banks a level playing field with national institutions, he said, to sell the products, which are used as reinsurance to help pay off loans.
Bankers also expect legislators to address the crisis in the sub-prime mortgage industry, Mr. DiMarco said, but the nature of potential legislation is unclear. "My guess is that we will see something along the lines of mortgage and foreclosures," he said.