Helping Floridians live near their work
A proposal to improve affordable housing in Florida and allow workers to live closer to their big-city jobs is now headed to the full Florida Senate for consideration. It’s part of priority legislation this session by Senate President Kathleen Passidomo (R-Naples). A Florida Housing Finance Corporation survey found that nearly 1.3 million Floridians spend more than 50% of their income on housing, higher than the 30% guideline to maintain stable housing.
SB 102 by freshman Senator Alexis Calatayud (R-Miami) is called the “Live Local Act.” It would provide incentives for private investment in affordable housing, offer flexible housing regulations that encourage mixed-use development in struggling commercial areas, and prevent local rent controls such as those passed by voters in Orlando. The bill cleared its last committee, the Senate Appropriations Committee on February 22, passing unanimously, and now heads to the full Senate for a vote.
Senator Calatayud described the bill to the committee as a market-driven plan for attainable housing for Floridians by incentivizing private sector investment, increasing state funding, and expanding opportunities for homeownership. The bill invests more than $700 million dollars toward workforce housing. It would allocate more money in two key programs: $252 million in the State Housing Initiatives Partnership (SHIP) and $259 million for the State Apartment Incentive Loan (SAIL) programs. Another $100 million would be spent for the Hometown Heroes Program for eligible frontline community workers such as law enforcement officers, firefighters, educators, healthcare professionals, childcare employees, and active military or veterans.
The bill introduces a missing-middle tax exemption for developments that set aside at least 70 units below market rate for affordable housing. However, a point of contention in the bill from both committees that heard it, was the elimination of local governments’ power to adopt rent control laws or other measures, opposed by Florida Rising and former Senator Dwight Bullard. Senator Calatayud emphasized the innovative urgency of the bill as it addresses the housing crisis through the missing middle tax exemption by allowing market rate rental units to become affordable for the workforce immediately, which “rent control could never do,” she said. She also noted a meeting with the Sadowski Coalition in which they praised the bill and said it is a more transformative housing package than the original Sadowski Act of 1992.
Of course, it does no good to push housing when homeowners can’t afford to pay for property insurance to protect their new home. A similar measure in the Florida House, HB 627 by Rep. Demi Busatta Cabrera (R-Miami-Dade) and Rep. Vicki Lopez (R-Miami-Dade), is still awaiting its first committee hearing.
LMA Newsletter of 3-6-23