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New Florida Senate president puts affordable housing front and center

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Affordable housing is taking center stage under new leadership in the Florida legislature, with the state’s new senate president calling it the “single most pressing” issue facing the state.

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When Tamia Young moved to Florida a few years back, she quickly found herself in a tough spot.

“I ended up living with my family members, and, you know, that didn’t work out and stuff, so I ended up homeless with my kid,” said Young.

After applying for federal housing programs for months, Young finally found a home at The Waves in Jacksonville Beach, a newly constructed affordable housing unit.

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“It was a really good blessing,” said Young.

For years, Florida Democrats have been calling on the Republican majority in the state legislature to do more to address the rising cost of housing in the state.

Instead, Jacksonville Democratic State Rep. Angie Nixon said Republicans raided the state’s affordable housing trust fund to the tune of billions of dollars over the past decade.

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“Which is one of the reasons why we’re in this housing crisis right now,” said Nixon.

But new leadership in the Senate is signaling change.

Florida’s new Senate President Kathleen Passidomo (R-Naples) pledged to address the issue during her swearing-in ceremony this week, highlighting the need for creative ways to provide more mixed-income housing.

“That’s what my vision is, and we’re gonna get a bill filled early on in session,” said Passidomo.

Nixon said she’s cautiously optimistic about the shift in tone.

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“We definitely will be in the back of those rows holding them accountable,” said Nixon.

And for those like Young, who know what it’s like to go without a roof over their head, change can’t come soon enough.

“I feel like them opening up that opportunity for everyone else, it’s an amazing thing,” said Young.

Passidomo said the affordable housing package has about 25 points already, including incentives for city governments and tax breaks for developers that offer affordable units.

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We’ll likely get a first glimpse at the actual bill language early next year.