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Florida Trying to Pull Out of Housing Crisis

They're quite literally the signs of a housing market struggling to come back.

To hear it from lawmakers, it's in need of a critical boost, and that's why they've put Amendment 4 on the November ballot.

If approved, first-time homebuyers would get a property tax break that in most areas would be well over a thousand dollars, phasing out over five years.

A new report by Florida TaxWatch finds Amendment 4 could drive the sale of 380,000 homes.

"Home sales in Florida have a domino effect, too," Rob Weissert said. "If someone's been trying to sell their home to move into a bigger home or maybe downsize their home, now that they can sell their home, they go buy a new home, and that domino effect really does generate a lot of economic activity."

It could be a big boon for the real estate market but not for Florida's cities and counties.

As property values have fallen, so, too, have property tax revenues, and many areas are finding new ways to come up with more money - including charging more at the parking meter.

Even with all that extra change, they can barely afford to pay for police officers and firefighters right now. The Florida Association of Counties complains Amendment 4 could cost local governments 600-million dollars - money they desperately need.

But realtor Penny Herman takes a different view.

"Houses are empty, yards are overgrown, junk is in the yard, people are in them, vagrants and so forth, and police officers having to go out, so there's a cost-benefit, I think, to having a homeowner in a neighborhood, bringing the neighborhood up, and not having to have city services that we wouldn't need otherwise."

But as with almost everything that appears on the ballot, there's no guarantee you'll get what you vote for, especially if it has anything to do with housing.

Amendment 4 would also lower the cap on property tax increases for all homeowners to three percent a year. Even owners of commercial properties would see their tax increases capped at five percent.

Supporters say the tax increases may not be an issue now but will be when housing values begin to rebound.


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