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Officials brainstorm to find ways to increase housing stock and decrease costs


With Florida’s affordable housing situation still at crisis levels, local officials, state lawmakers, researchers and other groups are looking to come up with new ideas, from changing zoning to lowering minimum lot sizes for developers.

The brainstorming came during a day-long discussion held on the University of South Florida’s St. Petersburg campus this week. It was hosted by the Florida Policy Project, a think tank founded by former Republican state Sen. Jeff Brandes.

Brandes himself has major issues with the Live Local Act — a law approved last year to boost housing opportunities in Florida. He said it’s a “one-size fits all policy” that treats the state’s largest and smallest counties the same way — largely focused on apartment developers, with not enough incentives for single-family home developers.

He believes that there needs to be more changes with zoning, specifically allowing for the construction of what’s called “accessory dwelling units” (ADUs) and lowering the minimum lot sizes for developers.

“And none of those really are contemplated in Live Local 1 or Live Local II,” he said, a reference to the measure passed this year that attempts to alleviate some of the concerns of the original legislation.

The in-law units

ADUs are also better known as secondary units, back-yard cottages and in-law units, and they have been growing in number in California in the past eight years.

“By the late 2010’s there was a growing consensus that something had to happen,” said M. Nolan Gray, the research director of California YIMBY (Yes in My Backyard), which advocates for affordable housing.

“The status quo was totally untenable. ADUs were just so inoffensive. ADUs just check every box…I think part of what had happened, the forces of ‘no’ had just been saying no to every possible reform for the longest time, but by the time we got to ADUs, there was this feeling of ‘come on’, this is really the minimum we could be doing, so we’re not going to yield to the politics of saying no to everything. We’re going to take some action.’”

But Edward J. Pinto, a senior fellow and the director of the American Enterprise Institute’s Housing Center, said that the push for ADUs in California had actually started in the 1980s. “It was a game of whack-a-mole between the Legislature and the localities. And then finally the damn broke in 2016-2017, but that was 30 years after it started.”

Lesley Deutch, a principal for John Burns Real Estate Consulting in South Florida, said that while she liked the “idea” of ADUs, she said it would allow for the construction of more vacation type rental properties than single family homes. And she said that another obstacle is the number of homeowner associations (HOAs) in Florida.

“A lot of them won’t allow extra construction,” she said. “Not only are you dealing with the state and the local municipality, but also you’re also dealing with your local HOA, and to me that’s a giant headache, and it’s a hard hurdle.”

Live Local

Later in the day the discussion moved to how Live Local is playing in certain areas of the state.

A point of contention has been the so-called “missing middle” property tax exemption that encourages more affordable units in new or recently constructed developments. The law allows for a 75% property tax break if at least 70 units are affordable to people earning up to 80 percent of the median income for the region (AMI), up to 120 percent — a much higher level of income than traditional affordable housing projects.

Pasco County has been one of the most vocal governments in Florida in publicly criticizing elements that part of the law.

Meanwhile, a provision in the 2024 legislation updating the Live Local law does allow “certain taxing authorities” to opt-out of giving a 75% property tax break for apartments priced for families making 80% to 120% of the median income for the region. The Pasco County Commissioners expect to discuss the option of opting out of that provision later this month.

Pasco Commissioner Jack Mariano said during this week’s discussion that the opt-out clause will free up the county.  “But as far as this whole thing is? I wish they could go and just relook at the whole thing,” he said.

Manatee County Commissioner George Kruse noted that the 120% of the Area Medium Income (AMI) provision in the law “took away some of the bang” of the Live Local Act, saying that there was no need to incentivize people at that relatively high level of income. According to the May 2023 Manatee County income guidelines, 120% of the AMI in Manatee was $76,800 for an individual, and $109,680 for a family of four.

“Honestly, the missing middle is great, but fortunately, the AMI’s have gone up faster than my rents have gone up, and in part due to supply, and in part due to the economy, and that’s what you should want,” Kruse said. “It’s gone up to the point where the 120% is no longer a true missing middle. The 60-80% is more of a missing middle now. People at 120% can just go out and get an apartment.”

Expediting building permits

Another bill (SB 812) designed to boost housing construction is sponsored by GOP State Sen. Blaise Ingoglia, a home builder and developer. He represents Citrus, Hernando, Sumter counties and part of Pasco County. The measure allows cities with a population of 10,000 or more and counties with a population of 75,000 or more to expedite the process for issuing building permits for residential subdivisions or planned communities.

“One of the reasons why we have an affordable housing crisis in this state is that everyone wants to move here,” he said. “The other part is that we’re seeing local governments artificially constrain supply, and they’re doing that by overregulation.”

Ingoglia shared a panel discussion with Jeremy Susac, the vice president of government affairs with the Lennar Corporation, one of the largest home construction companies in the nation. A former chair of the Republican Party of Florida, Ingoglia said as a home builder and a legislator, he gets frustrated when he hears local governments discuss affordable housing.

“To me they talk out of both sides of their mouth,” he said. “They say we need affordable housing, but guess what? We’re going to put all these mandates on you. We’re going to restrict what you can build. We’re going to restrict supply, we’re going to take forever on your permits, and where do you think that all gets passed on to? It gets passed on to the end user.”

Ingoglia added that the housing shortage in the state will only abate with the construction of more homes, which he says would be enhanced by getting local government out of the single-family residential permitting process “once and forever.”

“The only way to keep housing prices stable for the long and short term is to make sure enough supply meets demand. If you are not doing that, you are part of the problem. This legislation will help that. It will allow more homes to go on the market.”

Florida Phoenix is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Florida Phoenix maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Diane Rado for questions: info@floridaphoenix.com. Follow Florida Phoenix on Facebook and Twitter.


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  • Cat L

    And what about all the homes that are just an investment that nobody lives in? What about all the homes that are just being constructed for Airbnb? And what about all of the single family homes that are owned by investment groups for the build for rent market? What about all of the homes that are second and third vacation homes? I think there is significantly more going on than what is mentioned above.

    The effect of all of the relocation of people to Florida on Floridians has been significant. I would say roughly a third of my community has already left the state. Development choices seem to have been made solely with the wallets of a small list of people in mind.

    Sunday, May 5 Report this