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

Village on Wiley in Jacksonville is a multifamily permanent supportive housing development owned by Ability Housing and financed by the Florida Housing Finance Corporation.

A Jacksonville state lawmaker is pushing legislation to eliminate local government’s ability to impose affordable housing mandates on developers.

Republican Rep. Jason Fischer’s bill (HB 7103), which would restrict municipalities from imposing mandatory affordable housing requirements, cleared its final House committee by a vote of 14-8 Wednesday.

The bill aims to strike down a Florida affordable housing statute, which allows counties to require developers to include a certain percentage of affordable housing within their market rate development.

Fischer said he wants to make housing affordable.

“I think that rent and price controls lead to higher prices, so it leads to more unaffordable housing,” he said. “And so that’s why that provision is being stricken out.”  

In the place of such requirements, the bill encourages counties to create a voluntary incentive-based program designed to increase the number of affordable housing units.

Critics of the legislation say they’re worried it takes away an important tool from local governments’ toolbox.

“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. “Local governments should continue to have that tool and this bill would take that tool away from them.”

1000 Friends of Florida were joined by the Florida League of Cities and the Florida Association of Counties in raising similar concerns.  

The bill is also facing pushback from some lawmakers, including Rep. Tina Polsky, D-Boca Raton, who said the bill would exacerbate the existing housing shortage.  

“To take away an option is just not going to help the little guy and I feel like as legislators, that’s why we’re here to help the people that need our help,” she said.   

Like other cities across the state, Jacksonville is facing an affordable housing shortage.

Fischer said he’s open to making changes, but he won’t back off of getting rid of government mandates.

“The underlying belief though is that in the marketplace, people should be able to voluntary exchange and when you start having mandates and [the] state setting price controls, you create all kinds of distortions in the market,” he said.

Fischer’s bill got the backing of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Associated Industries of Florida and Florida Home Builders Association.

According to thebill analysis, it would also restrict local governments from requiring payment impact fees before issuing a building permit and impose time limits for municipalities to review applications.  

Related: Sen. Hutson Files Bill That Would Waive Impact Fees On Affordable Housing

Sen. Tom Lee, R-Thonotosassa, is sponsoring a companion bill (SB 1730), which has already cleared two committees and is now in front of its final committee.

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

Abukar Adan is a former WJCT reporter who left the station for other pursuits in August 2019.