Many Florida homeowners may have received or should soon receive a share of $7.5 billion as a result of the national mortgage settlement. Meanwhile, the State of Florida is in possession of $300 million paid directly to the state as part of that settlement. An incredible windfall towards the rebuilding of the local economy, lawmakers and the Attorney General (AG) of Florida, Pam Bondi, have settled on how the money will be distributed.
Earlier in November, 2012, Bondi, 2013 House Speaker Will Weatherford and 2013 State Senate President Don Gaetz announced the decision to apply the funds towards housing. That announcement ended the dispute over which entity was authorized to decide upon disbursement of the funds, the state legislature or the attorney general.
Most residents in the Tampa area know of or perhaps are part of the large group of families and individuals that were affected by foreclosure properties. Current AG plans for the state's award include using $40 million for civil penalties and $60 million for:
a. Initiatives to relieve the backlog of Florida foreclosures.
b. Down payment assistance.
c. Enforcement efforts by the AG office.
d. Legal assistance in foreclosure matters.
The legislature must first review and approve Bondi's request. Meanwhile, Weatherford and Gaetz have targeted approximately $200 million to use towards housing issues during the 2013 legislative session. Operating under the flexible authority of lawmakers, possible uses being discussed include:
a. legal, homebuyer and renter assistance.
b. affordable housing.
c. foreclosure prevention and counseling.
d. neighborhood revitalization.
Working together to resolve some of the issues still resounding from the economic problems over the past few years is a mark of a cohesive group of elected officials. The benefit of using the funds to directly address concerns facing housing in Tampa and other areas across the state will help close the disaster brought by so many foreclosures.
Perhaps the most positive step of the settlement is the directive for reforms in mortgage servicing practices by banks. A wiser group of lawmakers, citizens and lenders will hopefully prevent the foreclosure activity seen during this century from happening again.