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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Cabinet agrees: Invest more FL retirement fund in FL real estate



The Cabinet includes a current governor and the two opposite-party candidates who both want his job, but on this Charlie Crist, Alex Sink and Bill McCollum agreed this morning: Florida's retirement system pension fund should do more investing in Florida real estate.

"What's the saying, 'Buy low and sell high?' " Crist told State Board of Administration head Ash Williams at the quarterly meeting requested by CFO Sink. 

"In a downturn, there is opportunity for investment," said Crist, who rents a condo in St. Petersburg and has never owned a home. "I can't remember a time in my life when Florida real estate has been such a deal, and it occurs to me that if you have cash, if you have equity, maybe a smart investment would be residential real estate in Florida right now."

"I think that's a very good idea," Sink agreed. "We're going to have an affordable housing issue. So I would encourage the board to think about maybe making some of these investments in residential real estate ... to ensure we have affordable housing around the state."

Attorney General McCollum, Republican, who is running for governor against the Democrat Sink, chimed in to say he agrees it's a strategy worth considering.

Williams told the Cabinet "there is a mixed record" in that area, but agreed to come back next quarter with a deeper look at how it might work.

Williams said the state's pension fund stands at $99.6 billion, nearly $10 billion more than it was the previous quarter. That means the pension fund, after faltering with the economy, is up 12.5 percent to date.

"The fund has recovered quite nicely," Williams said. "The investment discipline ... works, and we think it's the right place for us to be as an institution."



[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 2:15pm]


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