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The affordable housing crisis: It's a priority of Senate president

 Florida Senate President Kathleen Passidomo
Florida Senate President Kathleen Passidomo

Florida Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, in an exclusive interview with the Florida Roundup, said her ambitious $711 million proposal to alleviate the state’s affordable housing crisis includes financial incentives to developers to build apartments in strip shopping centers and other commercial areas.

“Everywhere I go, speaking to groups, whether it’s business groups or civic groups, the number one problem facing our state is the lack of safe, affordable housing for the people who work for us and with us,” the Republican legislator told the Florida Roundup, a statewide public affairs show jointly hosted by NPR affiliates in Jacksonville (WJCT) and in South Florida (WLRN). “So last summer, I sat down with staff and said, ‘How do we find a way for the people who work in a community to live in that community?’”

The Senate housing bill would pre-empt local-government rules on density and building heights in certain circumstances, create tax exemptions for developments that set aside at least 70 units for affordable housing, speed the processing of permits and prohibit local rent controls.

The bill would also provide money for a series of programs, including $252 million for the longstanding State Housing Initiatives Partnership (SHIP) program, $150 million a year to the State Apartment Incentive Loan (SAIL) program, and an additional $100 million for the Hometown Heroes program, which is designed to help teachers, health-care workers and police officers buy homes.

The state budget for the current year includes $362.7 million for affordable housing.

Using strip shopping centers and other commercially zoned areas for multi−family housing near existing businesses, Passidomo said, could go a long way in providing more housing options.

“If you are in a strip center that's turned into a multi−family residential project next to a hospital, who do you think is going to rent those units? The people who work in the hospital. They can walk to work," Passidomo told the Florida Roundup.

The 95−page bill, called the “Live Local Act” (SB 102), has already been given the green light by the Senate. The House is moving forward with its version of the bill, HB 627, and it’s expected to get the chamber’s approval, too, because Republicans hold a super−majority in both the Senate and House.
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