President's Message: Together, Let's Address Housing Affordability

Magazine ,

by Bonnie Smetzer, CPM, HCCP

JMG Realty Inc.

 

The affordable housing crisis in our state continues to grow, and many Floridians find it difficult to find housing they can afford. It’s a downside to our vibrant economy and population growth, and the problem didn’t happen overnight.

During the real estate boom of the early 2000s, Florida lost numerous multifamily rental units to condo conversions. Then, during the Great Recession, no new units were built in Florida. Now that we have a robust economy, tremendous in-migration, and great job growth, we can’t build units fast enough to meet demand. When supply is constrained, rents increase. In most housing cycles, as new units are delivered, older units become more affordable. Currently, however, the rental housing supply is missing the units that were converted to condos that would naturally have become part of the older, more affordable housing stock.

As Florida is struggling with affordable housing throughout the state, local municipalities have been working to find solutions. Too often, those local governments try to use mandates to force developers to build affordable housing. Time and again, we have seen how that practice is ineffective and actually constrains supply by forcing developers to build in areas with less regulation. Instead, local governments could lead the way in increasing affordable development by offering financial incentives for voluntary development of affordable housing, including a discount or waiver on impact fees or reduction of real estate taxes.

In addition, local governments could make it feasible for developers to quickly deliver new units to the market. From initial project review to delivery of new units, it can take up to two years for new apartments to come to market. That needs to be cut in half.

FAA members have given their time to speak at workshops and public meetings, to explain why restrictions, such as inclusionary zoning and rent control, don’t work in the long term.

Because this is a statewide crisis, FAA members need the ability to engage with many municipalities around the state. In order to help meet this growing need, I have formed a Housing Affordability Committee within FAA. Our committee members include many market rate and affordable managers and developers, which gives us a collectively unique perspective and an ability to work together within our field of expertise. The Housing Affordability Committee will help educate our members across the state on solutions that work, so we can all come together in bringing to local governments workable, long-term solutions that will help solve this crisis.

In addition, we need to educate the public about apartments and remind them that apartment communities are good neighbors. Many apartment residents choose to rent rather than buy homes, so development is good for the residents of the community. Apartment development also pays its way up front in building infrastructure, including roads and schools to help prevent overcrowding.

It is my goal that committee members will become educated on the issues, in order to be a resource for their location association. This will include speaking with local municipalities that are seeking solutions or proposing regulations that would negatively impact our industry. Additionally, committee members should be willing to engage with others outside of FAA, who are dedicated to finding solutions for increasing housing affordability in Florida. if you have an interest in joining this newly formed committee, please contact me at BSmetzer@jmgrealty.com.

If we work together, we can make a difference.