Friday, October 3, 2008

Florida government offers $571 million in loans to build, buy housing

Florida Governor Charlie Crist

South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Josh Hafenbrack
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Oct. 3, 2008 – Trying to take the offensive in an economic crisis, Gov. Charlie Crist signed an executive order Thursday freeing $571 million in state-backed financing that real estate developers and reluctant buyers can tap to build and buy new homes.

The state will float tax-exempt bonds, backed by Florida’s gold-standard rating on Wall Street, to provide developers a line of relatively cheap credit. The hope is they’ll start building homes and apartments again soon.

Also, homebuyers can use the state-backed financing to get low-interest loans through the Florida Housing Finance Corporation.

“There’s more capital available ... that wasn’t available just a few weeks ago,” Crist said of Thursday’s action. “The people of Florida are having a hard time getting loans. This is a place where they can get loans at a lower rate.”

At the governor’s mansion Thursday, Crist paired the $571 million capital program with $541 million in anti-foreclosure money coming into Florida from the federal government, thanks to the Housing and Economic Recovery Act passed by Congress and signed into law by President Bush in July. Taken together, more than $1 billion is being made available to aid Florida’s struggling economy, the governor said.

The bulk of the $541 million in federal money will go to local governments in metropolitan areas hit hardest by the long real estate slump, including South Florida and Orlando.

The money, expected sometime next year from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, will be used to buy foreclosed properties and rehabilitate them, said Department of Community Affairs Secretary Tom Pelham. Money also will be available to low- and moderate-income home buyers for help with down payments and closing costs, he said.

Palm Beach County will get $27.7 million and Broward County $17.8 million. More populous Miami-Dade County will get a larger share, $62.2 million. An additional $12 million was earmarked for the city of Miami.

A Democratic spokesman criticized Crist.

“Once again, Empty Chair Charlie simply holds a campaign-style event to take credit for other people’s actions,” said Eric Jotkoff, a spokesman for the Democratic Party of Florida.

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