Commissioners: Florida Legislature overreached to block local development rules

Winter Park attempts to put some guardrails on affordable housing projects after state’s Live Local Act removed local control

By Beth Kassab

Winter Park is working to ensure developers don’t exploit a new loophole in local development codes created by the Live Local Act passed by the Florida Legislature this year in an attempt to promote more affordable housing projects.

Commissioners expressed unanimous support for a new city ordinance that would require developers to document that affordable housing projects are actually providing units that are truly affordable and won’t quickly convert to market-rate apartments or condos.

Mayor Phil Anderson said the new ordinance being crafted now by city staff represents an attempt to “preserve home rule” after the new state law prohibits cities from restricting the height and density of new affordable housing projects.

The act is Gov. Ron DeSantis’ $711 million investment in affordable housing, but changes in the new law will alter how cities and counties can govern themselves. For example, the act allows affordable housing developers to construct buildings at maximum height and density, limiting a City Commission’s ability to restrict the number of units per acre to protect the the aesthetics, charm and consistency in a neighborhood.

“Occasionally the state Legislature overreaches and, in this case, they have overreached by preempting some of our land-use ordinances in the spirit of trying to create more affordable housing,” Anderson said during Wednesday’s meeting. “I want to thank our planning department for taking a look at the unintended consequences of this preemption.”

Planning and Zoning Director Jeff Briggs said the Live Local Act (SB 102) now allows affordable housing developers to ignore certain local requirements such as the height of new buildings. But the law does not require those developers to prove they are building affordable units.

“There are no requirements for a developer to provide any data that they are, in fact, providing affordable housing,” Briggs said. “All this does is ensure that people are authentically and honestly doing affordable housing.”

The Live Local Act takes effect on Saturday and the city’s new ordinance is slated to come back to the City Commission for approval later in July.

“I think we’re getting quite used to preemptions,” said Commissioner Marty Sullivan, a reference to a number of prohibitions by the Legislature in recent years that have usurped the authority of locally-elected city and county officials.

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    By: Beth Kassab

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