August 10, 2023

On July 1, 2023, the Live Local Act (“LLA”) became effective in the State of Florida.  This legislation has the potential to change the skyline in any major City and offers dramatic increases in housing density to address Florida’s housing shortage.  In addition to certain parameters for tax relief and rent control, the most notable impact of this legislation for housing availability concerns vastly increased density for certain zoning districts.

Put simply, for any land zoned for commercial, industrial or mixed use in any city or county in the State of Florida, development proposing to offer 40% of the units as “affordable” housing is entitled to a higher number of units per acre.  In certain examples this density increase is dramatic.

This means that a residential multifamily project, or a mixed-use residential/commercial project with 65% of the square footage devoted to residential, can be developed on property zoned for commercial, industrial, or mixed uses.  So long as 40% of the residential units are affordable, this can be done without a zoning approval hearing.  The law states that a local government may not restrict density below the highest allowed density on any land within the jurisdiction where residential development is allowed, and often these developments can be built higher to accommodate the increase in dwelling units.

Let’s say a 4-acre piece of land is zoned “Commercial General” within a City.  Some cities allow residential uses in such zoning districts, but the density could be quite low, perhaps 2 dwelling units per acre.  Without more, a maximum of 8 dwelling units could be constructed here.  Under the Live Local Act, such property could be developed at the highest available density within that City or County, often up to or exceeding 100 dwelling units per acre.  So if that City does indeed offer 100 dwelling units per acre elsewhere, this 4 acre site could suddenly go from an 8 unit maximum to a 400 unit maximum contingent on certain dimensional elements like parking, setbacks, landscaping and height constraints.  Again, 40% of these units must qualify as affordable, but the remaining 60% have no rental amount limitation.

As has almost universally been the case in the State of Florida, changes to density were subject to local hearing approval, public notice, and public participation.  Under the LLA, if a development proposal is compliant with the terms of the Act, the proposal must be administratively approved with no further hearing or approval permitted by the local government.  One repeated concern statewide since the passage of the Act is the resultant absence of opportunity for public input by neighborhoods and concerned citizens.  The manner in which local jurisdictions manage and process these applications is widely variable with only a few LLA applications having been submitted in Florida to date, and local governments do retain certain control over non density, height or use components of an application, such as setbacks and parking requirements.  “Affordable” includes calculations based on moderate-income persons, and monthly rent limitations are in many cases higher than expected and approaching market-rate.

The real estate world is watching to see how this plays out.  If you have questions about how this might impact your property or your neighborhood, give us a call at 813-254-8998.

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