Florida Lt. Governor Toni Jennings recently announced the final recommendations of the Hurricane Housing Work Group for the use of the one-time disaster funds to address housing needs resulting from last year’s hurricane season.
Appointed by Gov. Bush, the Work Group met from November through February to assess affordable housing issues and develop strategies to help the market respond to the housing needs created by the 2004 hurricane season. Gov. Bush and Lt. Gov. Jennings’ recommended 2005-2006 budget includes $354.4 million in one-time hurricane housing recovery funds. These funds are in addition to the $192.9 million in recurring state affordable housing funds as well as the $100 million in supplemental Community Development Block Grants the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has provided to Florida.
“Lt. Governor Jennings and the Work Group have recommended creative ways to combine the strengths of the public and private sectors to help Floridians rebuild,” said Gov. Bush. “The temporary housing assistance FEMA provided immediately after the storms was critical in the initial phase of recovery. The next step is to help communities as they work to repair and rebuild homes that were damaged and destroyed.”
Gov. Bush charged the Work Group with: * Identifying regulatory barriers that will hinder the rebuilding of suitable housing; * Ensuring state and federal resources for hurricane recovery are targeted as effectively as possible; and * Recommending any appropriate market-based strategies that would help communities better meet the housing needs of their residents.
“We have taken the approach of looking at all possible solutions in leveraging these funds to best meet our housing goals,” said Lt. Gov. Jennings. “Having a home means more than having four walls and a roof, it means safety and comfort for families. Our hope is to provide communities with greater flexibility to address the housing recovery concerns of those families still in need.”
The recommendations of the Work Group include: * A locally-administered Hurricane Housing Recovery Program that would accommodate the different housing needs of different communities. This $208 million program would provide special incentives and requirements to focus on home ownership, community collaborations and recovery plans, and helping those with extremely low incomes. * A Rental Recovery Loan Program that would leverage available federal resources and private capital to build and rehabilitate affordable rental housing to help communities respond to their hurricane recovery needs. $95.5 million would be used to provide gap financing to help create rental communities that would be affordable for at least 50 years. * A $20 million Farmworker Housing Recovery Program that would leverage other resources to provide financing for the areas where farmworker housing was devastated by the storms. * A Special Housing Assistance and Development Program that would offer repair funds and development financing that serves some of Florida’s most vulnerable residents, including frail elders, the disabled, and homeless families. The Work Group has recommended $20.5 million for this highly flexible, targeted program.
In addition to the recommendations for specific housing programs, the Work Group has also proposed: * A $10 million Community Contribution Tax Credit program. These tax credits encourage contributions and volunteer labor from Florida businesses to support such community development and housing programs as Habitat for Humanity. * Additional Training and Technical Assistance totaling $400,000 for local governments, nonprofit and faith-based organizations, and others on ways to effectively use the various tools available to respond to the housing needs that the hurricanes created.
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