Housing Crunch

Amber Leto is a single mother of two making around $40,000 a year in a resort community where real estate prices have spiraled upward, not a good situation for someone who dreams of owning a home.

Leto is among many middle-income workers who have trouble finding affordable housing across Florida. Housing advocates point to them as a reason that lawmakers need to rethink past efforts that tried to ensure that residents could pay reasonable prices for a place to live.

Some lawmakers have already made proposals ahead of the session that starts March 7.

So far they include easing restrictions on the placement of mobile home parks and providing housing incentives of up to$25,000 for teachers specializing in high demand subject areas.

Many advocates are pushing legislators to spend the more than $900 million in Florida's affordable housing trust fund, which was created in 1992 and comes from a surcharge on a type of property tax.

It has ballooned because of the state's booming real estate market, but lawmakers voted last year to cap annual appropriations beginning in 2007 at $243 million.