By MARK HAWKINSAssociated PressThe Florida real estate market is on a tear.
The state’s stock market, which had been hit hard by Hurricane Irma, has been boosted by a $1.5 billion sales tax rebate program announced Tuesday that will help homeowners pay down their mortgage debts.
Florida is the nation’s largest state by population and home ownership rates are among the highest in the country.
But many homeowners in the Sunshine State have yet to find a mortgage that works for them.
It has been an especially hard year for homeowners.
The U.S. Consumer Price Index, which measures the cost of living for a family of four, fell 0.2 percent in February and is now down 3.6 percent from a year ago.
That is far below the 2.6-percent annual growth rate that the economy experienced in the wake of the Great Recession, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Florida is still the No. 1 state for home values, with average home values up 1.4 percent since October, according a recent report by RealHome.com, a site that tracks real estate.
But Florida’s real estate boom has been fueled by the influx of new homes, many of them in the Florida Keys, a popular tourist destination, and a boost from a federal subsidy program known as the Housing First Act.
Last week, Florida Gov.
Rick Scott announced the new program, which will help low- and moderate-income residents buy homes in the state and in other parts of the country that don’t have affordable housing.
The Florida Housing Development Authority will distribute $5 million to the first 50 homes that homeowners purchase in the region, with a maximum of $100,000.
For those with mortgages of $200,000 or more, the $5,000 grant will help pay down the debt.
Those who do not qualify will be eligible for a lower amount of the grant, which is expected to cost $1,500 to $3,000 for a two-bedroom home in the Keys.
For those with less than $200 and less than five years of home ownership, the grant will cost $3 to $5 a month for a one-bedroom, $1 million home in Palm Beach County.
Those with less to spend on mortgage payments will get a tax credit of $3 per month for up to five years, as well as a $10,000 rebate toward their mortgage.
In total, the program will cost taxpayers $6 billion to $9 billion, according the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.
A year ago, Florida was on pace to see a 3.4-percent increase in its housing market.
Today, the state’s housing market is up 2.2-percent.
“The fact that the mortgage market is coming back is a very positive sign,” said Steve Bohn, a managing director at CMC Markets in Jacksonville.
“But there are still a lot of homes that aren’t getting financed and a lot more than we need.”