In the past several years, Florida has seen a population explosion, with over 1,000 people moving to Florida each day. With such a rapid increase in population, demand for housing in suburban and rural areas of Florida is at an all-time high, and the supply of affordable housing has not kept up. To combat this problem, Florida’s legislature passed Senate Bill 102, amending the Florida Live Local Act (the “Act”). The newly amended Act comprehensively overhauled affordable housing development requirements across the state and has provided an easier path for developers to construct affordable housing opportunities in areas that traditionally would not be feasible.
What Constitutes Affordable Housing?
Affordable housing is a specifically defined term in the legislation, meaning the monthly rents, taxes, insurance, and utilities do not exceed 30% of the area median income for extremely-low-income persons, 50% of the area median income for very-low-income persons, 80% of the area median income for low-income persons and 120% of the area median income for moderate-income persons. The amended Act provides the greatest level of flexibility by broadly defining affordable and encompassing all levels of affordable housing from extremely-low income persons to moderate-income persons. With this, developers may construct and sell homes that are above the area monthly income and still be eligible for expedited approval of their projects.
The Expedited Approval Process
A major component of the Act relates to expediting the approval process and zoning and land use preemptions of local laws with respect to affordable housing. This portion of the act can be separated into two categories, (i) affordable housing developments a county may authorize and expedite and (ii) affordable housing developments a county is required to authorize and expedite.
- County may authorize and expedite: Before the Act, if a development did not conform to the local comprehensive plan, including, but not limited to zoning requirements, the local government would have to amend its comprehensive plan before the development could be approved. Such an amendment would require two public hearings in accordance with state law, the first held by the local planning board, and the second by the governing board, both of which would slow down the development timeline and delay the creation of affordable housing opportunities. The Act allows a board of county commissioners to approve the development of affordable housing, including mixed-use residential development, on any parcel zoned for commercial or industrial if at least 10% of the units in the development are for affordable housing. The Act does require a development to satisfy the county’s land development regulations for multifamily in areas zoned for such use and to be otherwise consistent with the jurisdiction’s comprehensive plan. As such, a development that satisfies those requirements may be administratively approved and no further action is required from the board of county commissioners. The Act, as amended, will significantly reduce the time to receive approval for an affordable housing project that would traditionally require variance.
- County is required to authorize and expedite: Any development within the state must abide by local and statewide regulations, including density, height and bulk of buildings, setbacks, and parking requirements. Certain regulations can vary from neighborhood to neighborhood and preclude development without a variance. The amended Act helps ease and expedite the regulations and approval process at the local level. Specifically the Act requires a county to authorize multifamily and mixed-use residential as allowable uses in any area zoned for commercial, industrial, or mixed use if (i) at least 40% of the residential units in a proposed multifamily rental development are, (ii) for a period of at least 30 years (iii) affordable to individuals making up to 120% of the local area median income. Furthermore, a mixed-use project must utilize at least 65% of the total square footage of the improvement on the land for residential purposes. If a development project follows these requirements, a county may not (i) restrict the density of an affordable housing development authorized by the Act below the highest allowed density allowed on any land where a residential development is allowed and (ii) restrict the height of an affordable housing development authorized by the Act below the highest allowable building height for residential or commercial structures within one mile of the parcel or 3 stories, whichever is higher. With this change, developers may capitalize on building larger and more dense developments than traditionally allowed with the understanding that the application for such development must be administratively approved if the development satisfies the county’s land development regulations for multifamily in areas zoned for such use and is otherwise consistent with the comprehensive plan. The amended Act also provides an additional incentive, requiring a county to consider reducing parking requirements for these developments if they are located within one-half mile of a major transit stop.
Senate Bill 102 took effect on July 1, 2023, and is set to expire on October 1, 2033. The amended Act has the ability to fast track certain developments and incentivizes developers to build larger affordable housing communities. Notwithstanding, developers need to consult with city and county officials to ensure all plans comply with the newly amended Act and all other applicable rules and regulations. The amended Act has the ability to benefit both developers and residents of Florida.
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 Florida Live Local Act.
 Section 420.0004 of the Florida Statutes.
 Section 125.01055 of the Florida Statutes.
 Section 125.01055(6) of the Florida Statutes.
 Section 125.01055(7) of the Florida Statutes.