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Get the latest coverage of the 2024 Florida legislative session in Tallahassee.

Changes, more funding coming to 2023's affordable housing law

Rental dwellings are hard to find in much of Florida, especially in big cities
Andy Dean Photography/Andy Dean
/
stock.adobe.com
Rental dwellings are hard to find in much of Florida, especially in big cities

Changes are coming to last year’s historic affordable housing bill.

Last year’s $700 million affordable housing initiative was the brainchild of Senate President Kathleen Passidomo. It is meant to solve Florida’s affordable housing crisis in the coming years, but there are some concerns about how the rapid building of housing could negatively affect communities.

Miami Republican Senator Alexis Calatayud is looking to remedy those concerns. Her bill brings changes that various stakeholders have requested, like capping the height of buildings that are built next to single-family homes and requiring mixed-use development in heavy traffic areas.

“As we discussed at length last session, not only is workforce housing critical to the economic security of our state, but it is a top quality of life issue impacting Floridians who want to build their lives and raise their families in the communities that they serve,” she said.

The bill also wants to give $100 million in federal American Rescue Plan funds to the state’s Hometown Hero’s program, which supplies affordable first home loans to first responders and other public employees. But there are still some concerns about whether the legislation will provide adequate workforce housing in all communities.

Gainesville Commissioner Bryan Eastman says that students could still qualify to live in affordable units made under the bill. That could dry up affordable housing in areas with large student populations, like Gainesville, Tallahassee and Orlando, leaving less housing for those that work in those communities.

“Gainesville has a disproportionate amount of students: people who, on paper, have no income, but frequently are some of our area’s wealthiest residents. Their money comes from student loans or their parents’ money, which wouldn’t count as income under any provisions that you would look at for traditional income. That makes them very complicated to categorize for low income programs,” he said.

Orange County Democratic Senator Victor Torres also wants to see official tracking of the affordable housing units being built by private contractors using the funds. Local municipalities who facilitate affordable housing development in their communities aren’t currently required to make progress reports to the legislature.

“We want to see the product. We want to know that it’s getting out there into our communities. Because we sit up here, you know, we need to make sure that everyone is accountable for were the dollars are going for affordable housing,” he said.

Calatayud says she’s open to considering further changes before the bill goes to the Senate floor.

Tristan Wood is a senior producer and host with WFSU Public Media. A South Florida native and University of Florida graduate, he focuses on state government in the Sunshine State and local panhandle political happenings.