The Live Local Act, which focuses on providing more affordable housing options to the local workforce across the state, goes into effect Saturday. In Collier County, where affordable housing is in short supply, local leaders spent months discussing the act’s potential to reshape the landscape of local workforce housing.
The legislation, created by state Senate President and Naples resident Kathleen Passidomo and signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis in March, allows multifamily and mixed-use residential development in commercial or mixed-use zones if at least 40% of residential units are designated for those making below 120% of the area’s average median income. Development commitments must be made for at least 30 years.
Mixed-use residential projects can move forward if at least 65% of their total square footage is used for residential purposes. Additional zoning or land-use changes and associated public hearings by developers will no longer be required.
The county will be prohibited from restricting the density of developments below the maximum allowed density on the county’s unincorporated land, which is 92 units per acre in Collier County within the Mini-Triangle Mixed-Use Planned Unit Development in the Bayshore area. Additionally, heights of proposed developments cannot be restricted to below the currently allowed height of commercial or residential developments within a mile of the project or three stories, whichever is higher. The county also can’t impose any sort of rent control.
Since the bill was brought forward to the Legislature, Collier board members have been sharing their perspective on how much this bill could impact the county. Commissioner William McDaniel is frustrated the bill is tying the hands of local leaders.
“I’m very much not happy with statutory preemption,” McDaniel said at his most recent forum. “I think it needs to be dealt with on a local basis, because who knows better about our communities and our residents to tell their elected officials what they should or shouldn’t be doing.”
Commissioner Dan Kowal doesn’t foresee too many private developers taking advantage of what’s left of Collier’s commercial space as costs will still be coming out of their own pockets.
“It totally comes down to if developers are willing to spend their own money,” Kowal said at a forum earlier this month. “This is not a government program. The only thing the government is doing is saying, ‘We’re letting off on the gas pedal on what you can do or can’t do.’ Somebody has to be willing to build it, so are we going to see these pop up every day? I don’t believe we will, because, mathematically, you have to make it work.”
Elected to the county’s Affordable Housing Advisory Board less than a month ago, Thomas Felke is an associate professor in the Department of Social Work at Florida Gulf Coast University with a background in researching macro-social issues, such as affordable housing. He views the lack of housing for the workforce holistically, diving into how it directly affects individuals and their decision-making processes. Felke, having also sat on the board of the Collier Homeless Coalition, said the community needs to effectively work together to make the Live Local Act, along with other solutions in providing affordable housing, work.
“Hopefully, there will be a lot of incentives for individuals to come in and help us to develop. I am a big believer that it needs to be a multilevel process,” Felke said. “We need private developers, employers, government, nonprofits, we need all of them, and they need to be working in concert with one another. This means keeping each other informed. We need to communicate; we need to sit down and strategize.”
The act appropriates $711 million for multiple housing programs through the Florida Housing and Finance Corp. This includes $259 million for the State Apartment Incentive Loan program, which provides low interest loans to developers building workforce housing, and $100 million to the Florida Hometown Heroes Housing Program, providing down payments and closing cost assistance to first-time home buyers for essential workers.
Nonprofits are benefitting from the act through property tax discounts if affordable housing is provided for 99 years.
The Live Local Act will be part of Florida Legislation for a decade, with a sunset date in 2033.