Legislative Wrap-Up: FAA Counts Wins for Affordable Housing and More

Advocacy News , Magazine ,

by Amanda Gill

FAA Government Affairs Director


Two laws that were passed during the 2019 Florida Legislative Session will help developers continue to deliver much-needed apartment homes across the state, by clarifying the impact fee process and limiting the powers of municipalities to mandate affordable housing. Both laws represent wins for the Florida Apartment Association, whose members advocated for them as legislative priorities. As of press time, the laws were awaiting the signature of Gov. Ron DeSantis.

In addition, FAA and other members of the Sadowski Housing Coalition secured $200.6 million for affordable housing programs within the state budget. This funding amounts to a 62 percent increase from the 2018- 2019 budget, which is critically needed to help address housing affordability challenges throughout the state.


House Bill 207: Clarifying the Impact Fee Process

HB 207, which was sponsored by Rep. Byron Donalds (R-80), passed the House on March 27 by a vote of 101 to 12. Upon receipt of HB 207, Senate leadership withdrew the bill’s committee assignments and sent it straight to the Senate floor. HB 207 passed by a vote of 39 to 1 on April 4.

Impact fees are taxes that developers pay to local governments when constructing a new apartment community. These fees are intended to pay for the additional resources, such as schools, parks, or fire stations, that will be needed by the population generated by the construction project — in other words, to offset the impact the development is expected to have on the current community.

Unfortunately, Florida’s statutes lacked clarity regarding how impact fees should be calculated and how the revenue could be used within the local government’s budget. In some cases, impact fees were being used to pay for existing debt — meaning they were not available to offset the impact of the current project.

In addition, current law does not specify when local governments can collect impact fees, which has resulted in varying procedures among municipalities across the state and complicated processes for developers who do business in various regions.

The passage of this legislation was a critical victory for multifamily construction projects, because it will establish consistency by allowing impact fees to be collected only when building permits are issued and will earmark impact fee revenue for acquiring or improving capital facilities to serve the population generated by the new development. Overall, these policy changes will make it easier for multifamily developers to operate across the state. In turn, this will allow the apartment industry to continue to grow, which will result in more jobs and rental housing for Floridians.

The law is to go into effect July 1.


House Bill 7103: Inclusionary Zoning Unfunded Mandate Preemption

HB 7103, which was sponsored by Rep. Jason Fischer (R-16), passed the House on April 25 by a 72 to 37 vote and was amended and passed by the Senate on May 3. HB 7103 will require local governments that have an inclusionary zoning mandate to provide incentives to fully offset a developer's costs for his/her affordable housing contribution.

Legislation was introduced to prohibit local governments from enacting inclusionary zoning policies, which require a specific portion of new apartments to be “affordable housing.” FAA’s supported this legislation because although inclusionary zoning mandates are well-intentioned, in practice, they can discourage development of multifamily housing where it is needed most.

At the behest of local municipalities, the legislation was amended to allow inclusionary zoning mandates only if the local government offsets the costs of building the affordable units, through incentives or funding.

As a result of this policy change, local governments will have some skin in the game and an incentive to work collaboratively with multifamily developers to address housing affordability concerns across the state.

The law is to go into effect when it is signed by the governor.


Other Notable 2019 FAA Advocacy Victories

House Bill 891/Senate Bill 620: Military Friendly Initiatives

One of the provisions in HB 891, sponsored by Rep. Mel Ponder (R-4) and SB 620, sponsored by Sen. Doug Broxson (R-1), as introduced would have capped a service member's security deposit and advance rent to the aggregate amount he/she would otherwise pay in 60 days rent. While this policy is well intended, the 60-day cap could be problematic for individuals who require a higher security deposit. After this bill was introduced, the association met with the bill sponsors and committee chairs in the House and Senate to discuss the industry’s concerns.

As a result of FAA’s advocacy, the cap on security deposits and advance rent was removed from both HB 891 and SB 620 before the legislation reached the House and Senate floor. Therefore, the version of SB 620 that passed the Senate on April 26 and the House on May 1 did not include this cap.


House Bill 565/ Senate Bill 958: Housing Discrimination

HB 565, introduced by Rep. Patricia Williams, D-92), and SB 958, introduced by Sen. Darryl Rouson (D-19), would have amended Florida statute to allow individuals who believe they are victims of housing discrimination to proceed straight to legal remedies, without going through the free administrative complaint process. The passage of this legislation could have resulted in increased legal costs for apartment communities that would be faced with frivolous and unvetted lawsuits. In light of these concerns, FAA met with committee leaders in both the House and Senate to discuss the potential negative implications of this legislation.

As a result of FAA’s advocacy efforts, both HB 565 and SB 958 died in committee and did not advance to the House or Senate floor during the 2019 session.


House Bill 721/ Senate Bill 1128: Emotional Support Animal Legislation Update

Both HB 721, introduced by Rep. Sam Killebrew (R-41) and SB 1128, introduced by Sen. Manny Diaz Jr. (R-36), advanced through their respective committee assignments during the first six weeks of session. By the time both bills were on the House and Senate floor, the legislature’s primary focus was finalizing the state budget. Unfortunately, the clock ran out before this legislation could receive a floor vote in the House and Senate during the 2019 session.

If passed, these companion bills would have reduced emotional support animal fraud by allowing a housing provider to request written documentation signed by a licensed provider to verify the individual's disability or disability-related need. In addition, this legislation would have established a penalty for misrepresenting a pet as an emotional support animal.

FAA members sprang into action to advocate on behalf of this legislation by sending more than 480 emails to all 40 Senators urging them to pass SB 1128 during the final days of the 2019 Session. While FAA is disappointed that the House and Senate failed to vote on this important legislation before the end of the 2019 session, the association should be very proud of the industry’s grassroots advocacy efforts. This policy priority will remain high on FAA’s to-do list for the 2020 legislative session.


Local Licensing Preemption Legislation Failed

House Bill 3, introduced by Rep. Michael Grant (R-75), passed its committee assignments with favorable recommendations and was later passed by the House on April 11. Unfortunately, HB 3 died in the Senate Community Affairs Committee. Senate Bill 1748, introduced by Sen. Keith Perry (R-8), did not have a committee hearing and was indefinitely postponed.

HB 3 and SB 1748 would have prohibited local governments from requiring a license for a person whose job scope does not substantially correspond to that of a contractor or journeyman licensed by the state. The bill would have specifically prevented local governments from requiring a license for the following jobs: painting, flooring, cabinetry, interior remodeling, driveway or tennis court installation, and decorative stone, tile, marble, granite, or terrazzo installation, plastering, stuccoing, caulking, canvas awning installation, and ornamental iron installation.

While this legislation was not one of FAA’s priorities during the 2019 session, FAA strongly supported the passage of HB 3 and SB 1748 because this legislation would have protected apartment communities and supplier members from additional regulations that could be imposed by local governments. Since occupational licensing reform was strongly supported by DeSantis, this legislation or a similar proposal is expected to be reintroduced during the 2020 session.