Steven Weeks Talks Affordable Housing and Beefing Up SHIP

Steven Weeks is a self-proclaimed “housing enthusiast.” He has spent over 40 years in the industry, with work including contracting, government, consulting and financing. His passion, however, is making sure low and moderate-income families have quality affordable housing.

At the 10th Annual Real Estate Forum, the Housing Director for Alachua County emphasized the role of government programs like the State Housing Initiative Partnership (SHIP)—and the need to bring it back to stronger days.

“Our ship dollars over the years have been swept by the legislative body for other things,” Steven said. “We are losing.”

Established in 1992, SHIP uses documentary stamp tax revenues to fund partnerships that create affordable housing. Locally, SHIP provides Alachua County with a $700,000/year community development block grant (CDBG) to demolish housing that can’t be repaired and so new housing can be created. This money is also used for down payments and assistance with housing repairs for eligible families. (Steven also mentioned that Alachua County also has $26 million from the Florida Housing Finance Agency, which deals with bonds.)

In the last decade or so, however, Weeks stated that far less of that money has been appropriated to affordable housing under SHIP. In 2007-2008, for example, this number was nearly $400,000; the following year, it dropped to just under $70,000. And while it has increased in recent years, it’s still at just a third of its mid-2000s peak.

Hopeful that new Florida governor Ron DeSantis will reverse that trend, Weeks explained the impact it could have. “If that’s the case, we will go from say about $227,000 a year to $1.5 million,” he said (to applause from the crowd). “We can do a lot with that.”

Steven concluded his session by encouraging audience members to contact their local representatives to promote the SHIP program, since “those monies are ours.” He also emphasized that properly funding SHIP benefits more than the people it helps. Real estate industry professionals are involved in the creation of affordable housing, and these programs bring them more business.

“The real estate agents and the contractors made it happen. And I really think we need to get our monies back. Because you are the guys that benefit on one side, and low income housing benefits on the other side. And so it’s really a win-win scenario.”

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