Housing Affordability, Fire Radio Requirements Remain Priorities

Posted By: Amanda White Magazine ,

Lingering economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, slow disbursement of rental assistance funds, a heightened focus on evictions, and other factors have created a challenging advocacy environment at the state and local level for the Florida apartment industry. FAA is not only prepared to face the anticipated headwinds at the state level but also has key priorities on the agenda for the 2022 legislative session 

The session formally begins on January 11. However, legislators have been meeting for weeks  to discuss bills at the committee level. Soon the focus will transition to moving legislation onto the House and Senate floor and ultimately seeing which proposals will make their way to the governor’s desk before the last regularly scheduled day of session on March 11. 

During FAA's Annual Conference & Trade Show in October, members met to determine the association’s legislative platform. FAA’s key legislative priorities for 2022 include: 

  1. Passing legislation to provide local governments with the ability to waive or reduce property taxes for multifamily affordable or workforce housing. 
  2. Passing legislation to clarify fire department radio signal requirements for new and existing high-rise buildings. 

Housing affordability remains top of mind for the apartment industry, policymakers, and everyday Floridians. Recent research completed by FAA and HR&A (housingopportunityforall.com) confirms that a property tax discount could accelerate the construction of much-needed affordable and workforce housing while generating positive economic impacts.

During the 2021 session, FAA supported HB 563 and SB 674, which would allow, but not require, local governments to establish property tax discount programs for affordable or workforce housing. Although the bills did not advance during the 2021 session, the FAA government affairs team has continued to have positive conversations with legislators over the past several months, to encourage support for this proposal in the House and Senate in 2022. 

Fire radio requirements continue to pose significant financial and logistical challenges for existing apartment communities and new developments. State law was amended in 2016 to give local governments the ability to regulate fire radio system requirements for buildings within their jurisdictions. These changes in the code were designed to ensure that firefighters can communicate effectively using radios while inside a building in the event of an emergency.  

The problem is that a building’s radio frequency pass/fail status is a moving target that can be influenced by a variety of factors, including nearby construction. In addition, some local governments are trying to expand requirements to include annual inspections and fees. Last but certainly not least, local governments across the state are preventing new apartment communities from obtaining a certificate of occupancy until radio signal strength issues are resolved, which can take weeks or months depending on contractor availability.

In response to industry concerns, FAA worked to introduce HB 587 and SB 1902 during the 2021 session. This legislation would have clarified fire department radio signal requirements for new and existing apartment buildings by requiring a reasonable timeline for ongoing inspections and establishing standards for the certificate of occupancy process, among other key changes designed to protect the apartment industry. 

The bills did not advance during the 2021 session, but another FAA-supported bill (HB 1209) ultimately passed both the House and Senate and was signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis on June 16. HB 1209 extended the deadline for existing apartment buildings to apply for the appropriate permit for the installation of this technology from December 31, 2022, to January 1, 2024. This extension gives FAA the opportunity to push for the other critical reforms outlined above during the 2022 legislative session. 

FAA will also be watching for and ultimately fighting against legislation that could negatively impact housing providers. In order to be successful, FAA needs your help to ensure that the industry’s voice is heard in Tallahassee. If you’re looking to get more involved in FAA’s advocacy efforts, please consider registering for the 2022 Legislative Conference at faahq.org. During this important annual advocacy opportunity, you will learn more about FAA’s legislative priorities and have a chance to meet with state lawmakers to educate them on the issues that matter most to the apartment industry.