FAA's 2019 Legislative Priorities

FAA News,

2019 Legislative Priorities 

Click here for a digital copy of the Florida Apartment Association's priorities.

#1. Support Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund and the passage of Senate Bill 70.

Issue: The Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund helps the apartment industry by providing money to build and repair affordable apartment homes for Florida’s most vulnerable populations. The preservation of the Sadowski fund is important for the Florida apartment industry because the demand for apartment homes continues to rise. Sadowski funds help balance the high demand for new affordable apartment homes across the state by aiding in the construction or refurbishment of affordable units.  

Background: The Sadowski Act (1992) created a dedicated revenue source to fund Florida’s affordable housing programs. The housing trust fund, also known as the Sadowski fund, is financed by document stamp taxes that are paid on all real estate transactions throughout the state.

Economic Impact: Sadowski funds are highly leveraged with private sector loans and equity, which provide $4 to $6 for every dollar of state funding. As a result, Sadowski funds have a powerful economic impact in the State of Florida. In addition, the appropriation of the estimated $314.08 million* in the state and local housing trust funds in the fiscal year 2019-20 into Florida’s housing programs would create 30,000 jobs and $5 billion in positive economic impact in Florida.

The Florida Apartment Association urges the Legislature to use all of the Housing Trust Fund monies exclusively for Florida’s housing programs and the passage of SB 70 (Sen. Mayfield), which will prevent the Legislature from diverting any cash balances  in the Housing Trust Fund for other purposes within the state budget.

#2. Support the passage of legislation to prohibit mandatory inclusionary zoning practices.

Issue: In response to rising rental housing costs, some communities in Florida have enacted Inclusionary Zoning policies with the hopes of increasing the number of affordable housing in the community. Sadly, these policies do not live up to the promise of reducing the cost of living for Florida’s more vulnerable individuals. 

Background: The mandatory Inclusionary Zoning policies that are enacted by local municipalities typically require a specific proportion of the new apartment homes developed within the municipality’s jurisdiction to be deemed “affordable housing.” These apartment homes are required to be rented for a below-market rate to individuals who qualify for income-based housing assistance.

How This Impacts the Apartment Industry: The apartment industry acknowledges the rising demand for affordable housing and seeks to work collaboratively with local governments to address this issue. Research shows that Florida will need to add 669,000 new apartment homes by 2030 to keep up with rising demand. 

More effective methods for addressing housing affordability may include voluntary incentive programs at the local level that seek to address the specific housing needs in each community. 

The Florida Apartment Association urges the Legislature to pass preemption legislation that prevents local units of government from mandating Inclusionary Zoning and encourages local units to pursue market-based incentives to address affordable housing.

#3. Support the passage House Bill 721/Senate Bill 1128 to reduce emotional support animal fraud and abuse.

Issue: The Legislature should pass HB 721/SB 1128 to reduce instances of emotional support animal fraud and abuse.

Background:  Unlike service animals, ESAs, also known as companion animals, are used by patients to alleviate symptoms associated with a variety of mental health conditions. An ESA's presence provides a benefit for the patient, such as relieving anxiety, depression, etc. 

In response to the growing usage of ESAs, online providers have established websites that offer false ESA certification documentation in exchange for a fee. These online providers do not have a license to practice in the State of Florida and lack an established healthcare relationship with the patient. As a result, an individual who does not qualify for a reasonable accommodation under the FHA can easily obtain fraudulent documentation online- without interacting face-to-face with a medical professional.

The legislature should pass HB 721/SB 1128 to require ESA accommodation documentation to be completed by a licensed provider who has an established medical or therapeutic relationship with the patient. Such legislation should also codify a property owner’s right to verify the authenticity of such documentation upon receipt of the ESA request.

How This Impacts the Apartment Industry: In accordance with the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA), an individual may request a reasonable accommodation for the ESA from a housing provider. Reasonable accommodation examples can include but are not limited to: eliminating the pet rent fee or allowing an ESA to reside on a “pet-free property.” 

The Florida Apartment Association urges the Legislature to pass HB 721/SB1128 to provide clarity regarding reasonable accommodation practices for emotional support animals.

#4. Support the passage of Senate Bill 144 to clarify the impact fee process.

Issue: There is a lack of consistency regarding when a local unit of government will assess and collect impact fees for multifamily development projects and what the revenue can be used for within the municipality’s budget.

Background: Florida law provides local governments with the authority to assess and collect impact fees as a means to fund infrastructure that is required to accommodate new population growth. The fees and the process by which they are assessed vary greatly across the state. For example, some local governments will attempt to collect impact fees during the early stages of the development process while other jurisdictions wait until building permits are issued to collect such fees.

SB 144 will establish consistency by allowing impact fees to be collected only after a building permit is issued. In addition, SB 144 will ensure the Legislature’s original intent of the law by earmarking impact fee revenue to be used solely for acquiring or improving capital facilities to serve the population generated by the new development.

How This Impacts the Apartment Industry: The inconsistency in the current impact fee system is problematic and burdensome for multifamily housing developers with projects across multiple jurisdictions. The administrative costs associated with tracking the different impact fee collection process across the state increases costs for apartment developers, which thereby increases the cost of rental housing across the state.

The Florida Apartment Association urges the Legislature to pass SB 144 to provide necessary clarity regarding the impact fee collection process.