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New Florida Law Blocks Local Affordable Housing Mandates

Bill Bortzfield
Construction is pictured in 2017 at The Lofts at Lavilla, which has since opened. The Lofts is a 132-unit mixed-income apartment complex across from the Prime Osborn Convention Center.

Governor Ron Desantis is greenlighting legislation to eliminate local governments’ ability to impose affordable housing mandates on developers. 

DeSantis Friday signed into law a bill carried through the legislature by Jacksonville Republican Representative Jason Fischer, which takes aim at a Florida affordable housing statute that allows counties to set a minimum number of  affordable units within approved developments, known as “inclusionary housing.”  

Related: Jacksonville State Lawmaker’s Bill Would Block Local Affordable Housing Mandates  

Fischer said the marketplace, not the government, should set prices. 

“Any time the government gets involved and starts setting artificial prices, that will itself lead to higher prices for the vast majority of people. So when they come in and the government by force messes with price controls, that can cause cost increases.”

Fischer wants counties to create a voluntary incentive-based program designed to increase the number of affordable houses instead. 

See Also: Gov. DeSantis Signs Bill That Critics Claim Could Gut Growth Management Laws

“So it’s creating financial and economic incentives for them to offer it at a lower price, rather than the government telling them arbitrarily, without any kind of benefit to them,” said Fischer. 

Jacksonville is facing an affordable housing shortage of more than 36,000 homes, according to a 2017 report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

Related: Jacksonville Has An Affordable Housing Shortage  

Critics of the new law say it takes an important tool away from local governments. 

“Deferring to the free market is not going to get us the same result,” said Thomas Hawkins, a spokesman with the nonprofit 1000 Friends of Florida, at an April House hearing on the legislation. “Local governments should continue to have that tool and this bill would take that tool away from them” 

Under the new law, a county can still require a developer to provide a specified number of affordable housing units, but it must provide incentives to offset all costs to the developer. 

The law also restricts local governments from requiring payment of impact fees before issuing a building permit and imposes time limits for municipalities to review application.

Contact Abukar Adan at 904-358-6319, or on Twitter at @abukaradan17.