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Gov. DeSantis signs a bill to boost Florida's affordable housing stock

 A pasture in southwest Florida is prepared to become a new housing development
A pasture in southwest Florida is prepared to become a new housing development

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday signed into law a $711 million plan to make housing more affordable for working Floridians.

A priority of Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, the “Live Local Act,” will more than double funding for housing and rental programs, provide incentives for investment in affordable housing and encourage mixed-use developments in struggling commercial areas.

“As demand is high to move to a place like Florida, it makes it more challenging for folks to be able to afford,” DeSantis said during a bill-signing event in Naples. “I think this is the biggest effort that's ever been done in the history of Florida.”

But the new law (SB 102) has drawn criticism from some groups because it will bar local rent controls and pre-empt local government rules on zoning, density and building heights in certain circumstances.

Passidomo, R-Naples, said the goal is to make it possible for people to afford to live in neighborhoods where they work.

“Florida has attracted so many new people to move here. And that has just exacerbated the problem,” Passidomo said. “And we don't have one solution to the problem. But the Live Local Act is an amazing, multifaceted, 106-page bill of ideas and suggestions on how we can provide affordable, safe housing for our workers.”

Among other things, the bill will create tax exemptions for developments that set aside at least 70 units for affordable housing and will speed permits and development orders for affordable-housing projects.

The bill will provide money for a series of programs, including $252 million for the longstanding State Housing Initiatives Partnership, or SHIP, program; $150 million a year to the State Apartment Incentive Loan, or 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.

The House on Friday voted 103-6 to approve the measure, after the Senate unanimously passed it on March 8.

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The News Service of Florida