(Foresight, Fall 1999)
By Jaimie A. Ross, Affordable Housing Director
1000 Friends of Florida
Developers and builders of affordable housing know that time is money. Delays can increase the cost of development beyond the point of no return. When the SHIP (State Housing Initiatives Partnership) program was created in 1992, providing millions annually in grant monies to local governments for affordable housing, it came with a condition: local governments had to do their part to reduce the cost of housing by expediting permits specific to affordable housing.
Many local governments interpreted the requirement to apply only to building permits. To disabuse that misconception, the 1997 Legislature defined “permit” in accordance with Florida Statute 163.3164, as a “development order”, which means any order granting, denying, or granting with conditions an application for a development permit. A ” development permit” includes any building permit, zoning permit, subdivision approval, rezoning, certification, special exception, variance, or any other official action of local government having the effect of permitting the development of land.
Expedited permitting is required for all affordable housing land use decisions in every Florida county. Fast track permitting for this housing also is required in every SHIP entitlement city. Some local governments, such as in Pinellas County, have been fast tracking land use permits for affordable housing for years. Others, however, continue to expedite only building permits, with the result that zoning requests and variances for affordable housing are regularly treated the same as those for market rate homes.
It seems that many local government planners, engineers, and others in the land use permitting loop are unfamiliar with SHIP program legal parameters. Similarly, many developers and builders of affordable housing in the state are unaware of the scope of SHIP’s expedited permitting requirement. These entities need to be made aware that such preference must be given to affordable housing developments in all aspects of land use permitting, as defined above, for local programs to be in conformance with SHIP requirements. In face, without corrective action to implement expedited permitting for affordable housing, SHIP fund grants to a local government can be terminated.
Developers and builders of affordable housing should know that each year, by September 15th, every local government SHIP administrator transmits an annual report to the Florida Housing Finance Corporation. The reports must include “public comments” which, in accordance with the SHIP statute, each local government must solicit for inclusion.
It is not too late for citizens in Florida to evaluate whether land permitting for affordable housing is being properly expedited in their community. If not, they should provide that information, in writing, to their local SHIP administrator. Keep in mind that while the SHIP administrator is concerned with the financing of affordable housing, he or she rarely is involved with permitting, and may be unaware of whether local permits are being expedited. It is incumbent upon the private sector to monitor the implementation of the SHIP program to help ensure compliance in this area.
The SHIP program is intended to implement the housing element of the local government comprehensive plan. It is in everyone’s interest that this essential affordable housing land use law be properly utilized. Local governments in need of further information, or developers and builders needing expedited permitting for affordable housing development are invited to contact the author at 1000 Friends or to call the Florida Housing Finance Corporation SHIP administrator at 850-488-4197 for assistance.