Lawmakers propose changes to Florida’s new affordable housing law

Bills would ban counties, cities from restricting floor area ratio of projects under Live Local

Changes to Florida’s Affordable Housing Law Proposed
Senator Alexis Calatayud; Representative Vicki Lopez (Getty, Florida House of Representatives , Florida Senate)

Florida lawmakers are looking to make changes to the new affordable housing law that would clarify the state’s overriding of local zoning laws and restricting the height of new projects. 

Sen. Alexis Calatayud filed Senate Bill 328, and Rep. Vicki Lopez is sponsoring the sister legislation in the Florida House that would ban counties and local municipalities from restricting floor area ratio, a move that likely stems from cities like Miami Beach trying to restrict Live Local projects under allowable FAR. Calatayud and Lopez sponsored the original Live Local Act legislation that was signed into law in March. 

The Legislature’s session begins on Tuesday and is expected to end in early March.

Under the proposed changes, developers would be able to build up to the highest currently allowed floor area ratio in that county.

The bills also seek to restrict the height of Live Local projects to up to the height of existing buildings within a quarter of a mile. The current law allows developers to move forward with plans that can be as tall as the height of existing structures within 1 mile. 

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is seeking the Republican nomination for president, signed the Live Local Act into law. The legislation would likely result in more workforce housing, as opposed to low-income housing, because of the way it is structured. Developers receive incentives and are allowed greater height and density if they set aside 40 percent of a project’s housing units to those making up to 120 percent of an area’s median income.

In addition to superseding local municipalities’ density and height regulations, it sets aside more than $700 million in funding; creates tax incentives for developers; and bars rent control, which was previously only an option if local governments declared a housing emergency. 

In Miami Beach, the owner of the historic Clevelander and Essex House hotels on Ocean Drive plans to redevelop the property into a mixed-income housing tower with luxury condos and affordable rentals. The city has said that the plans conflict with Miami Beach’s land development regulations, including FAR rules. Jesta Group, the Montreal-based developer, sought FAR of 6.95 on the Clevelander property, while the maximum allowed FAR in the city is 3.5, and 2.0 in the hotels’ district.

In September, the city of Doral passed a six-month moratorium on all new project proposals that fall under the Live Local Act to give the city time to analyze the legislation. In the fall, the city reached a compromise with the Apollo Companies regarding its plans for a major mixed-use project called Oasis at Doral. Apollo is still taking advantage of Live Local, but lowered the planned maximum height within the project to eight stories from 12 stories. 

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