On Wednesday, the state of Florida ended three programs designed to distribute federal housing aid funds, all under the banner of the Florida Hardest-Hit Fund (HHF). While that in itself would be noteworthy, the decision to end the programs is drawing criticism from some due to there being some $88 million left unspent.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, Florida state officials says the HHF programs in question “helped tens of thousands of struggling Floridians” by providing mortgage principal reduction, mortgage help for the unemployed, and help with delinquent home loans.
Trey Price, Executive Director for Florida Housing Finance Corporation, said, “Although the Florida HHF programs were originally slated to conclude by December 2020, we were able to meet the needs of struggling homeowners ahead of schedule.”
Several Florida HHF programs will remain open, including those focused on mortgage assistance for the elderly, mortgage modifications, and down payment assistance. The state says the remaining $88 million in federal funds will be distributed among these remaining programs. However, the Sentinel reports that the remaining programs have thus far drawn only around a tenth of the applications of those the state is shuttering.
U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, (D-Orlando), said, “Unfortunately, Governor Scott and Republican legislators dragged their feet for years in getting the FHFC [Florida Housing Finance Corporation] to deploy significant funds and various assistance programs, undermining the effort and stifling its effectiveness.”
According to the Sentinel, the HHF programs “helped only about half the number of the approximately 100,000 Floridians who applied since it launched in 2010.” According to a 2015 federal report, the Florida program also had a low admission rate compared to the 17 other states that participated.
Unsurprisingly, Florida saw an uptick in mortgage delinquencies in the back half of 2017 and the wake of last year’s powerful hurricane season. According to data from Black Knight, Inc., thousands of delinquent Florida mortgages could be attributed to the damages and impact of the storms that plowed into the state last year. Like many parts of the country, Florida is also in the midst of an affordable housing shortage, one that is currently being exacerbated by the arrival of thousands of evacuees from Puerto Rico.