America’s largest home-building companies got big federal bailouts early this year, then spent millions to oppose ballot Amendment 4, a citizen’s initiative sponsored by the not-for-profit organization, Florida Hometown Democracy.
Amendment 4 got on the ballot thanks to the signatures of over a million Floridians from across the state who thought it was a good idea. Not so the big builders. They’re the ones that played it fast and loose with over-development for years, helping create the real estate bubble that wreaked such havoc when it burst.
Amendment 4 would change the rules of that growth & development game that helped crash Florida’s housing market and overall economy, while threatening environmental preservation and community quality of life for millions of citizens.
Currently, land use and development decisions are left to small groups of city and county commissioners. By way of judging how well that commissioner-controlled system works, note that “over the decade ending in 2008, Florida remained atop the list of states when it comes to the sheer number of public corruption convictions, with 794.” Needless to say, quite a few of those cases involved city and county commissioners.
The Amendment 4 solution to the problem is to add a step to the decision-making process, but only for proposed changes in what’s called the Master Plan for an area, changes like taking woodland, farmland or wildlife habitat and re-zoning it for commercial and residential development. The extra step would require that decisions made by commissioners about such changes would also have to be endorsed or rejected by residents of the affected area, in a vote at the next regularly scheduled election.
Imagine that. Residents of towns and cities getting to vote on growth and development issues that directly affect the quality of life, and home values, in their own neighborhoods. The big real estate developers and home-building companies stopped to imagine that, and didn’t like what they saw.
They joined forces with the Chamber of Commerce to create an organization with a carefully researched name, “Citizens For Lower Taxes and a Stronger Economy” – a name that represents the very opposite of what its creators have actually done in Florida. The mission: Funnel money into a massive opposition campaign against Amendment 4.
The Florida Realtor’s Association has contributed over a million dollars to the “cause”. A Who’s Who list of giant home construction companies suddenly flush from the millions bailout dollars they got in the first quarter of 2010, turned right around and added 2 million bucks to the war chest. The list below shows only the top five, but it gives you a clear idea of what’s going on here.
Bubble Builder Early-2010 Federal Bailout $ Mid-2010 Anti-4 Donation $
- Pulte Homes $800 million $567,000
- Lennar Homes FL $251 million $367,000
- KB Homes $191 million $255,000
- Ryland Homes $ 97 million $135,000
- Standard Pacific of Tampa $103 million $132,000
Florida Hometown Democracy is fighting back against all those big bucks by exposing these “Bailed-Out Bubble Builders” in a new online video below. “The Vote Yes On 4” campaign is truly a David vs. Goliath effort. The hope is that as people and organizations focus more closely on the positive, game-changing impact that Amendment 4’s passage can have on Florida, the Davids will band together to generate enough resources and momentum to even the odds some.