The Florida Realtors-backed “Support Homeownership for All” license plate hit a major fundraising milestone this summer: It’s generated $1 million in total donations earmarked for affordable housing projects through the state.
“While not limited just to Realtors, it’s kind of become the ‘Realtor license plate’,” says Brad Monroe, chair of Homeownership For All Inc. and broker with Suncoast Realty Solutions in Tampa. “It’s a great way to promote homeownership and a lot of the projects supported by the state’s local real estate associations.”
2006 Florida Realtors President Mike Dooley created the license plate program, and he remains involved in its operations – the “godfather” for the plate, according to Monroe.
“Florida Realtors has offered incredible support for the entire license plate program,” says Dooley. “The association picks up all the administrative costs of the program, so almost 100 percent of the funds flowing into the program gets used for affordable housing programs.”
In addition to standard Florida license fees, drivers who opt for the specialty plate pay $25 at the time of purchase and each year after that – a relatively small amount of money that adds up over time. Almost 100 percent of the money – a little bit is used to promote plate sales – goes directly to help struggling homeowners since Florida Realtors provides the organizational work without charge. The program is a 501(c)(3) charity.
By the end of July 2018, 40,141 Florida automobiles sported the “Support Homeownership for All” license plate and $1,003,525 dollars had been raised since the program’s inception. To date, $817,013 has been disbursed to affordable housing programs across the state.
License plate history
Dooley started planning his presidential years in 2005 as president-elect. “Joyce Bartlett – my local AE (Jupiter-Tequesta-Hobe Sound Association) and a very dear friend we lost recently– and I were chatting, and she said that a Realtor had stopped in and said, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to have a Realtor license plate?’ I let that idea stew for a while, and I picked up the phone and called John Sebree, the VP of public policy in Tallahassee at the time. We then started to do some research.”
The original goal was a true Realtor license plate but that proved problematic, so Dooley focused on a more general theme.
“In 2005-2006, real estate values peaked, and we only paid lip service to affordable housing because there wasn’t any,” says Dooley. “Fireman, teachers, police? They couldn’t find housing. We took that concept and ended up with a license plate called ‘Support Homeownership for All,’ which became a vehicle of funding for affordable housing.”
The actual design for the license plate – a Florida home shaded by palms and backlit by a dramatic sunset – sprang from a “design the license plate” contest open to Realtors and was based on the winner’s entry.
Once the license-plate concept was in place along with bylaws and a charter, Florida Realtors’ Tallahassee team found lawmakers in the Senate and House of Representative who agreed to introduce a bill authorizing the plate, HB 1589. It passed and the governor signed it into law.
License plate today
When asked about the $1 million milestone, Dooley doesn’t focus on the big amount – he focuses on the $25 that Realtors and others pay each year to sport the plate on their car.
“You might think one license plate doesn’t do anything,” says Dooley. “It costs no more than a doorknob, a light fixture. But if we all join in, $25 grows into more than $1 million. That, in and of itself, is a testament to the belief that every little bit helps.”
Since Realtors tend to sport the license plate, they also serve a secondary role: “When you’re driving around and you see one, you kind of feel as if that other driver is part of our club,” says Dooley. “It’s kind of cool.”
“We can’t thank all the Realtors enough,” adds Monroe. “Keep it going. We’re making a difference and we’re getting affordable housing funds into the right hands and supporting homeownership around the state.”
© 2018 Florida Realtors®