Friday, March 2, marked the end of the seventh week of the legislative session. Here is a summary of what happened in Tallahassee since our last update:
HB 529 (Doorstep Trash Collection): FAA priority legislation House Bill 529, sponsored by Rep. Diaz (R-103), was voted on the House on January 31 (113 yay, 0 nay) and was sent to the Senate to replace Senate Bill 746 sponsored by Sen. Aaron Bean (R- 4). The bill is now in messages and will be read and voted on by the Senate before being sent to Gov. Rick Scott for his signature. Gov. Scott’s office contacted FAA for input on HB 529, and FAA provided a statement of support for the legislation and explained in depth to the governor’s staff how the bill benefits apartment residents and the apartment industry.
HB 529 and SB 746 impact the doorstep waste collection industry and clarify the legality of the trash collection services across Florida. The Florida Fire Prevention Code is ambiguous with regard to allowing trash containers to be placed temporarily in hallways and breezeways. The Florida Apartment Association, in conjunction with the doorstep waste collection industry, is seeking clarification of the code.
The doorstep waste removal industry is made up of several independent businesses that provide more than 1,200 jobs across Florida and generate an economic impact of more than $68 million annually. Halting doorstep trash collection services would eliminate jobs and disrupt a valuable apartment service. Doorstep trash collection service is allowed across the United States, and clarity in the Florida Fire Prevention Code will allow the industry to continue to do business.
HB 853 (Housing Discrimination): House Bill 853, filed by Rep. Tracie Davis (FL-13, D), was read for a third time in the House and passed the House with a vote of (111-3). In order for the bill to be sent to the governor for final signature, the bill would have to be added to the Senate Special Order Calendar for a reading before the full Senate and then a vote. FAA is working to keep the bill out of the Senate.
HB 853 is similar to legislation filed in 2017. Both bills would greatly alter Florida’s legal system in multiple ways. The legislation would double the timeframe for filing a fair-housing civil suit against an apartment community. Any current or past resident could file a claim up to two years after an alleged incident occurred. Secondly, the legislation allows those who file a claim to bypass any HUD investigation or conciliation process before pursuing a civil suit. This means that an apartment resident could sue an apartment community before their claim is investigated or vetted through the current state procedures. This bill could greatly increase the number of un-vetted civil suits brought against apartment communities and could encourage unnecessary or frivolous lawsuits.
Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund (UPDATE): The House and Senate have adjusted affordable housing allocations and will most likely sweep millions of dollars from affordable housing in order to fund protection measures for Florida students in the wake of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
The Sadowski Coalition announced on March 1 that final budget appropriations should be decided by end of day on March 6 and that the House and Senate are currently negotiating new funding plans. FAA will continue to monitor any budget changes and will report how these changes may impact funds previously directed toward affordable housing.
As reported in week five, the Senate had chosen to fully fund affordable housing and allocate $120 million to affordable housing projects, and the House had cut funds to $74 million. The two chambers must come to a budget agreement by the end of the session.
The Sadowski Act passed in 1992 created a dedicated revenue source to fund Florida’s affordable housing programs. Affordable housing helps to house Florida’s most vulnerable populations, including veterans, the elderly, those experiencing homelessness, and persons with special needs. The housing trust fund is funded by document stamp taxes paid on all real estate transactions.
There are simply not enough apartment homes in Florida. Sadowski funds help to balance the high demand for new affordable units across the state by aiding in the construction and refurbishment of affordable properties. More than 911,000 Floridians spend at least 50 percent of their income on housing. Additionally, the National Apartment Association estimates Florida will need an additional 669,000 apartment homes by 2030 to meet Florida’s housing demand.
FAA will continue to monitor legislation and advocate for our industry throughout the legislative session; if you have any questions or concerns, please emailCourtney@faahq.org. For an in-depth update from FAA government affairs director Courtney Barnard, please listen to the 2018 mid- session update call here.