Push to restore funding to affordable housing programs

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Real estate agent Fredrick Fletcher knows firsthand how much extra cash can help. He received $10,000 from the Sadowski Trust Funds' "SHIP" program.

"That helped me get into my house about 8 years ago. As a matter of fact without that, I wouldn't have gotten into a house so early," Fletcher said.

The down payment assistance comes with some strings. Buyers are also educated on the home buying process.

"They safeguard you so that when you purchase that house they're not looking for you to go through the troubles of foreclosing and short selling, because they made sure you can afford it," Fletcher said.

Despite the housing crisis Fletcher never fell into foreclosure.  Proof, housing advocates say, the program works.

"They're not getting a free house. They have to take a loan out for whatever amount that they can afford. They have to come up with some money of their own to show a commitment to it. They have to have their credit in the same shape everyone else has to, to get an FHA loan or a conventional loan," Kevin Maher with DebtHelper.com said.

The grant money comes from doc stamps paid on all real estate transactions. But recently that tax went towards balancing the state budget.  Now that the budget is balanced, affordable housing advocates want to make sure SHIP funds are directed back to housing.

"And that's what's so frustrating now. The past five years those taxes, or doc stamps, have still been collected, but no money has come to affordable housing. It gets to the point where you just want to see the tax go away if the funding is not going to go for what it's supposed to go for," Suzanne Cabrera with Housing Leadership Council said.

Fletcher hopes the program comes back as well. He knows it can help so many others who just need a little extra push.

"I'm proof that we need the program."

Florida state lawmakers will get the final say on how the money is spent. The convene in March. A decision is expected in May.
 

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