State Sen. Anitere Flores is proposing a bill to allow more people in the workforce to be eligible for affordable and workforce housing. CONTRIBUTED

A bill recently introduced by Florida state Sen. Anitere Flores proposes a new tool to confront the affordable and workforce housing issue in the state, especially in the Keys. 

Flores, in a recent interview with the Weekly, said it’s a program that’s utilized in other states. Known as the Pilot State Workforce Housing Tax Credit, the bill differentiates from other traditional housing programs in terms of eligibility and the way it’s funded, Flores says. 

“The income levels are a little bit higher than traditional affordable housing programs,” Flores said. “For the Keys, that percentage would be at 120 percent of the adjusted monthly income. That universe of people includes nurses, teachers, firefighters and police officers. They make a good living, so they make too much to participate in traditional affordable housing, but still have challenges, particularly in the Keys.”

Flores said the second difference is the funding mechanism for the program, which would be through the insurance premium tax. These taxes and fees are paid by every authorized insurance company that issues policies covering risks in Florida. She said it would be a tax credit for developers who invest in workforce housing. The pool of funding totals $50 million over 10 years. 

“Workforce housing in the Florida Keys is a major problem,” she said. “After Hurricane Irma, it became an even bigger issue. We have to find a way to make sure the people who work in the Keys, people who provide our services and keep us safe are able to live in the Keys.”

In the Upper Keys, Flores said, many people live on the mainland and work in the Keys. 

“That’s not good for anybody,” she said. “This is another way for us to hopefully tackle this issue.”

Flores said the bill passed within Senate committee, and it should have its second hearing the first week of session. In the House, the bill will be heard in the first week of session. Flores said there hasn’t been a whole lot of opposition to the bill. 

“We’ve been working with Florida Housing Finance Corp. to make sure they continue to ultimately have a say how the credits would be given out and evaluating the program and application, and making sure quality projects are being approved,” she said. “We’re moving along in the process.”

Flores says she hopes to get the bill across the finish line to confront the workforce and affordable housing issues in the Keys.

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