No details yet on how bulk of $334 million foreclosure settlement will be spentby Dara Kam | January 24th, 2013
GOP legislative leaders vowed that $200 million from a mortgage foreclosure settlement will be spent on helping homeowners but said they do not know yet how they will divvy up the money.
“We’re not going to be spending this money on members’ favorite projects that have nothing to do with the crisis. The idea is to focus the resources on helping the people who are in the greatest needs,” House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, said at a press conference Thursday with Attorney General Pam Bondi and Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville.
Weatherford pledged to work with Bondi, who wrangled with the legislative leaders for months over control of Florida’s $334 million settlement made in March as part of a national agreement between attorneys general and the nation’s five largest banks.
“You’ll be hearing from us,” Bondi, standing beside Weatherford, promised.
A legislative committee last week finalized Bondi’s request for $60 million of the settlement. More than half of the money will go to first-time homebuyers for down no-interest payment assistance. The rest is earmarked for housing counseling, legal aid and the courts to help a backlog of foreclosure cases.
Bondi and lawmakers struck a deal in November that handed her control of the $60 million and put the legislature in charge of the bulk of the funds – $200 million – to be spent on “housing-related programs.” They won’t finalize their spending plan until the end of the legislative session in May, more than a year after the settlement was reached.
Bondi, praised by both legislative leaders for her office’s work in reaching the settlement with the banks, said she’d like to see the money spent on:
_ Foreclosure prevention;
_ Neighborhood revitalization;
_ Affordable housing;
_ Home buyer or renter assistance;
_ Additional legal assistance;
Flanked by Bondi, Weatherford told reporters on Thursday that the money will not be used to replace funding already spent on housing-related items.
“There’s no intention to do a bait-and-switch on this,” Weatherford said, adding that the leaders and Bondi had developed a trust “to use these funds to help the people who were actually harmed.”