An in-depth look at our 2021 legislative priorities

Posted By: Trinity Kutschinski Advocacy ,

The Florida Apartment Association's 2021 virtual Legislative Conference is sure to be unique. This year's conference will feature a detailed issues briefing, the opportunity to caucus with your local affiliate, followed by a two-week window to meet with state legislators. The 2021 Legislative Issues briefing will be held on Monday, January 25th. If you have yet to register for the briefing, you can do so via the button below. 

*Member login required* | Register for the 2021 Legislative Issues Briefing

Now on to the fun stuff! Our 2021 state legislative priorities. This year, we have four priorities, all of which have been outlined in detail below. Links to additional information and resources for further clarification have been included throughout.

Protect the Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund (SB 510 | HB 13)

  • In 1992, the Sadowski Act. created a dedicated revenue source to fund Florida's affordable housing programs. Known as the Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund, funding is collected from document stamp taxes paid on all real estate transactions. 
  • Funding is reinvested into the community to help house Florida's most vulnerable populations. The fund is typically split 70/30, with 30% of funding used for initiatives like the State Apartment Incentive Loan (SAIL) program, and 70% is used for single-family housing initiatives (SHIP).
  • During the pandemic, SHIP funds were used to support local rental relief programs helping to keep residents in their homes.
  • Included in Congress's most recent stimulus package, $1.4 billion was appropriated for rental assistance programs in Florida. However, restrictions and requirements are attached to this funding, which has disqualified some Floridians who remain in need of assistance.
  • The Florida Apartment Association (FAA) urges the Legislature to use all of the Housing Trust Fund monies for Florida's housing programs and additionally, to provide resources for local rent relief programs. 
    • FAA encourages the Legislature to pass SB 510 (Senator Ed Hooper) and the companion bill, HB 13 (Representative Sam Killebrew), which would prevent the Legislature from diverting any cash balances in the Housing Trust Fund for other purposes within the state budget. SB 510 is scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Community Affairs Committee on February 2, 2021. 

Establish COVID-19 Liability Protections for Housing Providers (SB 72 | HB 7)

  • Throughout the pandemic, the rental housing industry, along with copious others have and continue to go to extraordinary lengths to ensure the safety of employees and residents. 
  • Despite these efforts, the pandemic has brought unprecedented legal liability as housing providers continue to perform essential apartment community operations. 
  • Florida's 1.4 million apartment homes contribute over $11.5 billion to the state's economy each year, this includes property taxes and jobs.
    • The costs associated with frivolous lawsuits related to COVID-19 have the ability to cripple Florida apartment communities and the management companies that operate multifamily rental housing.
    • Other states have enacted COVID-19 liability protections for businesses (i.e.- Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, and more)
  • The Florida Apartment Association urges the Legislature to pass HB 7 (Representative Lawrence McClure) and companion bill, SB 72 (Senator Jeff Brandes) to provide reasonable COVID-19 liability protections for businesses. 
    • Bill Status of HB 7- Passed through its first committee, and will now go before the House Pandemic & Public Emergencies Committee
    • Bill Status of SB 72- Passes through its first committee, and will now go before the Commerce and Tourism Committee

Permit Affordable Housing Tax Incentives (SB 674)

  • For a new apartment project to break ground (market rate or affordable), a developer must "make the numbers work," and secure financing from investors who demand a specific rate of return in exchange for their investment.
  • For affordable apartment projects, financial procurement and the ability to deliver the necessary rate of return asked by investors is even more difficult. Coupled with increased construction costs resulting from local policies (i.e.- impact fees, project delays) the "numbers" may no longer work. 
  • In light of these challenges, developers looking to secure funding for an affordable project often rely on a combination of state and federal tax incentives, along with additional private funding. Unfortunately, securing state and federal tax incentives is an extremely competitive process, resulting in a very limited number of projects being funded by these incentives each year.
  • Giving local governments the ability to offer property tax incentives for affordable housing projects would offer a powerful tool in addressing housing affordability.
    • The Florida Apartment Association (FAA) urges the Legislature to provide local governments with the authority to offer local tax incentives in exchange for the construction of affordable housing. 
    •  FAA urges the Legislature to pass SB 674 (Senator Ana Maria Rodriguez) to provide local governments with the ability to waive or reduce property taxes for affordable housing units. At this time, SB 674 has not had a committee hearing.

    Clarify Fire Radio System Requirements

    • In 2016, Florida Statute 633.202 was amended to give local governments the discretion to regulate fire radio systems in buildings within their jurisdiction. However, this language is extremely vague and has led to implementation inconsistencies across the state.
    • In regulating fire radio systems, local governments have the authority to determine the signal strength required for new and existing buildings within their jurisdiction.
      • Exsisting apartment building must comply with local signal strength requirements by January 1, 2025, and are required to apply for the appropriate communications installation permit by December 31, 2022.
    • Although well-intentioned, the current statute, as written, does not articulate any minimum requirements for municipal emergency radio equipment, provide a timeframe for the conduction of ongoing equipment inspection, or definitively give municipalities the authority to withhold a certificate of occupancy (CO).
    • The Statute's ambiguity has created a patchwork of local amendments establishing varying practices across the state. The Florida Apartment Association believes that the current statute is problematic and should be amended to address the following:
      • Require local radio systems to meet a minimum national standard,
      • Provide a reasonable inspection timeline,
      • Require local governments to provide developers with a radio signal coverage heat map early on in the planning process to help determine whether a project may encounter a radio signal strength issue,
      • Clarify and establish the impacts of radio signal strength requirements/compliance as it pertains to issuance of a certificate of occupancy (CO).
    • The Florida Apartment Association (FAA) urges the Legislature to pass legislation to clarify emergency communication system requirements for new and existing high-rise buildings.

    For further information on any of the information found above, please reach out to our Government Affairs Team.