Florida REALTORS® Give the State’s Most Vulnerable a Legislative Voice
If a picture is worth a thousand words, a nine-minute video must be…priceless. But in Florida, the 170,000-member REALTOR® Association is putting a value on 'priceless,' one vulnerable household at a time. Using a Level 3 Housing Opportunity Grant, Florida REALTORS® created a compelling video to convince state legislators to fund Florida's Affordable Housing Trust Funds at the maximum levels.
The idea for the video came up in discussion with other nonprofits that join Florida REALTORS® in lobbying, year after year, for full funding of the Affordable Housing Trust Funds, says Cheryl Lambert, Florida REALTORS®' Secretary and Immediate Past Chair of the Attainable/Workforce Housing Committee. "We were all used to sitting down and explaining to people how important these programs are, but that only gets you so far. And then I said, 'It would be great if we could just show them the difference these programs make in people's lives!'"
With guidance from NAR staff, Florida REALTORS® applied for and received a Housing Opportunity Grant of $15,000. "The level of thought required by the application was significant, but worthwhile," says Danielle Scoggins, Senior Public Policy Representative of Florida REALTORS® and author of the grant application. "With a project this complex, it's better to have all the planning done on the front end."
To find individuals to appear in the video, Florida REALTORS® tapped their 25-member Attainable/Workforce Housing Committee. "We got them all together on a conference call, and said, 'We're looking for folks who've benefitted from the state’s affordable housing programs, who'll be willing to share their stories with the legislature,'" recalls Scoggins. Committee members got to work and after a careful selection process, followed by scheduling, filming, and editing, the final video will be presented to state legislators this September as they begin to prepare for next session.
The video features an introduction by the Director for Housing and Community Development in the City of West Palm Beach, who emphasizes that the various programs made possible by Florida's State and Local Government Housing Trust Funds serve the state's most vulnerable populations: those experiencing homelessness, the elderly, and veterans. Then come the stories, from different regions, highlighting different populations and the success of several different affordable housing programs. There's an older woman from West Palm Beach who lived in her car for two months, in poor health but holding down a job, before she was helped into a stable home by one of the programs. A young woman who lost her mother and her home at age 19, becoming solely responsible for six younger siblings as well as an infant of her own, credits another state program with helping her to stabilize her family through the purchase of a home; she is now an officer on the Tallahassee police force. A U.S. Army veteran from Clearwater tells of her heartbreaking inability to find an affordable apartment after she divorced from her husband; elderly residents of a state-subsidized senior residence in Hernando, one of them a former REALTOR®, share stories of retirement savings eaten up by medical bills.
"I can't watch the video without crying," confesses Scoggins. "It puts a human face on these issues, and will certainly help our state legislators understand the powerful impact of these programs on real citizens—their constituents—around the state."
The first completed segment of the project was unveiled at the 2016 Florida Housing Conference. The final video will complete the larger advocacy project that the association will be rolling out for state legislators this September: a major Affordable Housing Economic Impact Study commissioned by Florida REALTORS®, and a set of one-page infographics customized for each of the one hundred and sixty legislative districts in the state. Members of Florida REALTORS®' energetic Key Contact program, which teams a REALTOR® member with each of the state's 120 Representatives and 40 Senators, will be sharing the materials with their assigned legislators. The video, which will be made public in the near future, will send a powerful message to those making decisions about funding the state's Affordable Housing Trust Funds.
To learn more about how the REALTOR® Party is supporting Florida REALTORS®' advocacy to secure affordable housing for the state's most vulnerable populations, contact Senior Public Policy Representative Danielle Scoggins, at 850-224-1400 x2504.
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