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When affordable housing collides with local planning. That's the story of the Live Local Act

A housing complex under construciton
Pasco County Community Development
The legislature passed the measure to increase affordable housing in the state. But many local officials have complained it's taking away their power to plan development in their communities.

Some developers are using Live Local to bypass local government approval.

A developer, during a long hearing on upgrading the Sirata Beach Resort on St. Pete Beach, said the quiet part out loud. It was a threat to bypass commission approval under the Live Local Act by adding more affordable housing to the plan.

St. Petersburg real estate attorney Charles Gallagher says he's never heard of a developer so publicly threaten to use Live Local to get what they want.

The legislature passed the measure to increase affordable housing in the state. But many local officials have complained it's taking away their power to plan development in their communities.

Gallagher discusses whether changes to Live Local during the recent legislative session will calm the clash between local rule, and the attempt to address Florida's affordable housing crisis.

Charles Gallagher: "The policy objective behind it makes a lot of sense. You can't have a workforce that lives in the urban centers where they work. To wait and incentivize developers to have more affordable housing, reasonable housing makes a lot of sense. But the incentivization behind that seems to be pretty effective and pretty turbocharged, so you say. You basically are taking away home rule powers from a city, municipality. or county in terms of their land planning.

Charles Gallagher
Michael Blitch
Charles Gallagher

I talked to a lot of local government officials. And they emphasize we're not against affordable housing. But we are against us developing a parcel for a business use or industrial use. And having that basically taken by a developer who says, 'I'm going to put up affordable housing. And you can't tell me I can't.' Do I read that right?

You do, you do. And I almost liken this to kind of a fast pass at Disney, right? The Live Local Act has done that related to the home rule obligations and powers that a city or county would have. You don't need to go ahead and go through that onerous process of permitting and land planning and commission meetings, and planning and zoning meetings. You get to go ahead and go to the front of the line, provided that your project does accommodate affordable housing.

The state legislature did make some changes. Will they make a change in how this started to play out?

I don't think so. I think the changes are not substantial, and material in terms of the act itself, as long as there's going to be a hold-back for affordable housing. And again, what that exactly means is up for some dispute. Those same provisions that exempt out home rule powers, and that provide this fast pass to development without having to seek those normal traditional approvals. The city and counties have comp plans for a reason. They want to go ahead and manage development, manage growth a certain way. You're going ahead and totally omitted the effect of that.

Is there a way to make this work for both affordable housing and for local governments who have comprehensive plans? Because they want to have a comprehensive plan for their area?

I think so. It may be some more substantial retooling of the act. Maybe you still permit those towns, cities, municipalities to permit respect to their comp plans, and you don't remove their home rule powers.

Boy, you can see both sides of this. We do have a crisis in this state when it comes to affordable housing. We also understand that local governments, as you just said, they have a plan for how they want this to develop over years and years and years. And a developer, well, it's there, well, I'll do some more affordable housing. That'll be good for everybody. And I'll get through this on the Fast Pass as you put it.

It's not a one sided issue. You're absolutely right. So many of the different views are are full of merit and full of good faith. This was a phenomenal idea to incentivize affordable housing. No one debates that. The execution of it is what may cause some concerns and problems.

I started my journalism career delivering the Toledo Blade newspaper on my bike.