A new affordable housing law passed by Florida’s legislature and signed in March by Gov. Ron DeSantis is reportedly creating anxiety among local elected officials who are concerned that the new law cedes too much control over zoning and other matters to the state government.
The “Live Local Act,” passed unanimously in the State Senate and by a vote of 103-6 in the House, represents a sizable investment in housing by incentivizing developers to construct affordable housing units while restricting zoning and planning restrictions in local jurisdictions approving multifamily construction projects in order to limit bureaucratic barriers to increase supply.
But some of those local officials are now expressing concern that the provisions of the new law are restricting their ability to more actively participate in development decisions within their communities, according to reporting by WUSF Public Media.
“I think the hesitancy comes with the fact that it’s a preemption. I think whenever we’re talking about home rule or preemption, there’s always going to be local pushback,” Florida Housing Coalition Legal Director Kody Glazer told the outlet.
The new law comes with restrictions as to how much local elected officials can influence zoning and development decisions as well as density and height restrictions. Some of these concerns have been echoed in other states that have passed restrictions on zoning in other states including Massachusetts and Washington.
The Tampa metro area has experienced among the highest home price increases in the country since 2019, in large part because the counties have in place restrictive zoning policies that increase the value of land.
Following antidevelopment protests from residents ostensibly concerned about local infrastructure, in late 2019 Hillsborough County placed a moratorium on the rezoning of land for housing in some areas. Two years later, Pasco County, north of Tampa, also put a moratorium on rezoning to multifamily use in some areas.
The new Florida law applies to any residential housing projects that sit “on commercial, industrial or mixed-use land that allocates at least 40% of units to be affordable for residents earning up to 120% of the area median income,” according to WUSF. The law went into effect on July 1, and officials in cities including St. Petersburg and Tampa were reportedly briefed on their remaining rights overseeing such projects under the new law.
The process has gone more smoothly in St. Petersburg than Tampa, where officials in the former have “already heard interest from ‘ready to build’ developers in recent weeks” based on local reporting by the Tampa Bay Business Journal. In Tampa itself, however, a city council meeting on July 13 featured sometimes tense discussions between city leaders centered on compliance anxiety with the new law.
“The state is going to just gonna keep taking and taking and taking – and I’m not willing to give an inch more than I’m required to,” said Tampa city council member Lynn Hurtak, according to WUSF. She later introduced a motion to implement only what was legally required by the city to comply with the new law until the next scheduled council meeting. That motion passed.
During the meeting, another city official – Nicole Travis, Tampa’s economic development director – explained that while she understood the council’s frustrations, “the new housing rules make the approval process of eligible affordable housing projects a solely administrative function that can circumvent city council,” according to WUSF.