Florida's affordable housing law: The Live Local Act
Property prices in Florida have steadily increased since the pandemic, making affordable housing a significant concern for policymakers, businesses, and residents. In a state as popular and crowded as Florida, the skyrocketing land prices, debt, labor, materials, and insurance makes it difficult for many Floridians to afford a decent house.
Fortunately, the state government took a positive step to address this issue through the Live Local Act. On March 29, 2023, the Governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, signed the Live Local Act bill. Investing $711 million in housing projects, many realtors and land agents believe it to be the most significant investment in housing in the state's history. Moreover, this legislature relieves Floridians by creating tax breaks and providing zoning-related incentives for affordable and workforce housing developments.
Expected to become effective July 1, 2023, the Affordable Housing Law has already enchanted numerous land developers and real estate investors. One reason could be that the law will supersede local governments' zoning, height requirements density, and density for low-cost housing in commercial or mixed-use developmental areas. Furthermore, it disallows the local governments to impose rent control, which was only possible during a housing emergency.
"If this law had come up with a bill two years ago with $700 million-plus for affordable housing, you would have gotten down on your knees to thank them".- Mark Hendrickson, Florida Housing Coalition Board MemberThe Live Local Act is a positive step forward
The Live Local Act represents a significant step forward in addressing the issue of affordable housing in Florida. As it includes $711 million for housing projects associated with the FHFC (Florida Housing and Finance Corporation), many building contractors are in contract to buy commercial sites due to new legislation. Some of the funding of Florida's Affordable Housing Law specifically include;
- $259 million for the SAIL (State Apartment Incentive Loan) program to provide low-interest loans for developers building workforce housing.
- $150 million is recurring for specific uses, such as projects near military installations. $252 million would be provided for local governments to preserve and produce housing.
- $100 million for the Hometown Heroes Program to provide down payment to first-time home buyers, enforcement officials, childcare employees, firefighters, educators, healthcare professionals, active military personnel, and veterans.
- $100 million would be provided for a loan program to alleviate inflation-related cost increases.
Critical provisions in the new law
- The new corporate tax donation program encourages private investment in affordable housing.
- Remove a provision in current law that would prevent local governments from imposing rent control in certain circumstances.
- Limit the ability of local governments to restrict or overregulate the use, density, or height of affordable housing developments.
- Encourage the use of the public property to develop affordable housing by facilitating the permitting process.
- Expand the Hometown Heroes Program, which provides downpayment and closing cost assistance to law enforcement officers.
Law block rent control by local governments
This bill removes the ability of local governments and communities to impose rent controls under any circumstances. Moreover, counties and municipalities would allow the construction of residential buildings as long as at least 40% of the housing units in the proposed development are designated. The local county would not allow restricting the height of a proposed development below currently, which is permitted within one mile of the planned project.
“People are getting displaced, kicked out of their homes, and we’re tired of it,"-Karla Correa, St. Petersburg Tenants Union,
The expected increase in the availability of affordable houses
According to the University of Florida, between 2012 and 2021, Florida added hundreds of thousands of new rental units but lost nearly 277,000 units with monthly rents under $1,000. Housing is affordable when it costs less than 30% of a family's gross income. The Live Local Act has become a silver lining in this challenging era. Senator Kathleen Passidomo claimed that the law would ensure Floridians can live close to good jobs, schools, hospitals, and other critical centers of our communities that fit comfortably into their household budgets, irrespective of their income.
This law significantly focuses on how affordable housing should be executed, with cities and towns being more willing to work with developers instead of against them. This would make developers complete more housing projects, enabling us to cope with the problem of the availability of houses. For example, the Miami-based Integra Investor Jake Morrow completed 670 affordable workforce housing units in the tri-county region.
"I meet with potential and existing clients daily who are under contract on commercial properties and would not be under contract if this law did not exist."-Jake Morrow. Miami based Integra Investor
Redwood, which has over 1,500 units in the pipeline in South Florida, plans to build more than 5,000 affordable workforce units over the next five to seven years.
Florida's affordable housing law is expected to fuel multifamily residential projects.
Due to the new law, developers of budget houses and some with mixed-use projects in mind are expected to create multifamily residential projects. The law's emphasis on affordable housing development makes multifamily housing eligible for tax credits and other financial incentives. The loans would be for up to $35,000 or 5% of the home's purchase price, which is considerably less. Owners would pay the loans in full when the property transfers hands.
Miami-Dade County Commissioner Eileen Higgins declared that this could result in some large multifamily buildings near single-family residences.
Limitation of The Live Local Act
Besides Florida's Affordable Housing Law having the potential to boost the availability of affordable housing in the state significantly, criticism has not stopped. For example, Redwood Dev Co. said this law would not help developers buy over-priced private land. Similarly, the president of Centennial Bank, J.C. De Ona, agreed that affordable housing builders still need local funding or other incentive programs to make their deals successful.
He highlighted the case of Ludlam Trail Towers, an affordable senior housing development under construction in Miami. Ludlam Trail Towers would only be possible with funding from Miami-Dade County Centennial, which provided a $7.5 million construction loan to the property builders.
"The Live Local Act is a success that will have far-reaching consequences. I did a rough estimate, and I believe it will finance the construction, rehab, or sale of at least 20,000 to 25,000 units for homebuyers, which is significant ".-Ronald Hendrickson, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Florida Properties Group.
Who stands to benefit
First-time homebuyers considered front-line workers such as teachers, nurses, and first responders would benefit from Florida's Affordable Housing Law. Increasing the borrowing limit from $25,000 to $35,000 will cause a dramatic change in communities and result in a housing boom. In addition, if developers are not required to pick up the tab on property taxes (beginning in 2024), they can expect projects to generate more net operating income, allowing them to borrow more debt. That means they could eventually develop more.
"Being able to have people who are teachers, police officers, firefighters, all these important things, you can't do it if they have to drive more than an hour every day. We aim to let people able to live in the community where they are working," -Governor DeSantis -
Overall, The Live Local Act represents a significant step forward in addressing the issue of affordable housing in Florida. The Act aims to increase the supply of affordable housing and make it easier for Floridians to find and afford decent housing, especially for the working community, including firefighters, educators, healthcare professionals, childcare employees, and active military personnel. While much work is still left to address the affordable housing crisis in Florida, it is a good starting point for the housing shortage.
"I applaud this legislation that Governor DeSantis signed into law. In my eyes, this is a real effort to create more affordable housing truly. The Florida Real Estate Association should be acknowledged for their hard work in enacting these changes."- Anthony Lamacchia, Broker/Owner-
This article is for informational purposes only. It should not be considered financial, insurance, real estate, or legal advice. The market fluctuates; therefore, not all information will remain the same. Consult an attorney before making significant decisions.