1000 Friends of Florida

Smart Growth and Affordable Housing in Florida

(Note: This article also appears in the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s Spring 2001 NIMBY Report:
By Jaimie Ross, Affordable Housing Director
Smart Growth and Affordable Housing


1000 Friends of Florida has had an affordable housing program since 1991. And we are still frequently asked “What does affordable housing have to do with growth management?” This question comes from environmentalists and affordable housing advocates, alike, who perceive growth management to be a “green”issue. We explain that 1000 Friends of Florida is committed to ensuring the implementation of growth management and therefore, by definition, is committed to advocacy for affordable housing. Affordable housing has been an integral part of Florida’s growth management system since its inception over 25 years ago.

Comprehensive Planning for Affordable Housing

The 1985 Growth Management and Land Development Regulation Act, which made enforceable the requirements of the Growth Management Act passed in the 1975, requires every local government to adopt a Housing Element in its comprehensive plan. The Housing Element must be consistent with the Strategic Regional Policy Plan (see Chapter 186, Florida Statutes) and the State Comprehensive Plan, (see Chapter 187, Florida Statutes). The Housing Element is one of ten mandatory local comprehensive plan elements. Other mandatory elements include those that more typically come to mind such as a Conservation Element and a Transportation Element.

The Housing Element sets forth goals, objectives, and policies for how the local government is going to meet the housing needs of its entire current and anticipated population, including low, very low income, special needs populations, farmworker housing, group homes, and foster care facilities. The Housing Element also requires that local government make provision for the elimination of substandard housing. In addition to the Housing Element, the local government must also adopt a Future Land Use Map, which identifies adequate sites for affordable housing; this requirement is interpreted to prohibit, for example, the exclusion of multi-family housing from the jurisdiction.

The Housing Element goals, objectives, and policies, must be based on appropriate data and analysis of local housing conditions and needs. The element examines data involving existing and projected populations, existing housing stocks, and the status of affordable housing programs (see Chapter 163.3.177(6)(f), Florida Statutes, and Florida Administrative Code 9J-5.010). Once the comprehensive plan is adopted, it is limited to two amendments per year (with certain exceptions)and is subject to evaluation and update review (referred to as the Evaluation and Appraisal Report) every seven years by the state’s land planning agency, the Department of Community Affairs.

Local governments are required to adopt land development regulations, (ordinances), to implement the goals, objectives, and policies in their adopted comprehensive plan. Individual development orders (permits), and the land development regulations must be consistent with the comprehensive plan. All of these provisions are enforceable though the Department of Community Affairs. The Growth Management and Land Development Regulation Act sets forth the details for that enforcement including actions brought by citizens and organizations that represent citizens’ interests, such as 1000 Friends of Florida.

Housing for Employees

The “oldest” growth management affordable housing standard is found in Chapter 380 (see 380.03(2) and 380.06(23) and Florida Administrative Code 9J-2.048). Since 1972, Florida has recognized that large scale residential, commercial and similar developments can impact state and regional resources beyond the borders of a local government where such a project is located. Known as Developments of Regional Impact (DRIs), these projects are required to get approvals not only from local government but the state as well. They are required to mitigate significant impacts on state and regional transportation facilities, environmental features, and available housing.

In particular, the Adequate Housing Uniform Standard Rule requires the project to assess its ability to accommodate very low, low and moderate income employee households. The assessment requires looking at available housing within a ten mile, twenty minute radius of the project, and either determining that sufficient units, which are not substandard, are either available, will be constructed on site, and/or mitigated though other means. The development order for the DRI is conditioned upon making provision for the needed housing. The DRI Adequate Housing Rule is part linkage fee, and part inclusionary zoning.

Comprehensive Planning Leads to Inclusionary Housing Ordinances

The comprehensive housing element requirement that local governments provide for housing their entire current and anticipated populations is not interpreted to mean that government actually build the housing, but rather that government do what is within its power to assist the private sector in building affordable housing. In addition to providing financial incentives and regulatory reform to the private sector, a number of local governments are beginning to adopt inclusionary housing ordinances to implement the housing elements of their comprehensive plans. No two inclusionary housing ordinances look the same, but they all have the following components in common:

• a certain threshold of units, such as 50, triggers mandatory inclusionary units

• inclusionary units must be aesthetically similar, but not the same as market rate units

• long term affordability restrictions are placed on the inclusionary units

• financial incentives are provided for the inclusionary units

• a payment in lieu option is available in certain circumstances

By and large, housing data and analysis has been a prerequisite to the adoption of inclusionary housing ordinances in Florida. Once local governments can see that: (1) a housing deficit exists within certain income categories and; (2) communities have developed in an exclusionary and segregated manner, the adoption of inclusionary housing ordinances becomes a natural fix.

Comprehensive Planning Leads to Better Affordable Housing Data and Analysis

Affordable housing goals, objectives, and policies which are based on data and analysis can vary greatly depending upon the quality of the data used. For instance, a local government without the will to provide affordable housing could come up with data that showed no affordable housing need. Substandard housing could be defined in surprisingly creative ways, reducing the actual number of housing units listed as substandard. To remedy this, the 1993 Legislature, adopted a requirement that all local governments use local housing data, based on a uniform methodology, supplied to it by the state land planning agency, the Department of Community Affairs. The Department of Community Affairs provides this information through a contract with the Shimberg Center for Affordable Housing at the University of Florida. Each local government is provided with the most current data readily available to address its population’s housing needs, in an electronic format. Presently, the Shimberg Center will be narrowing this data down to census tracts, to provide increasingly useful information to local governments in making affordable housing land use, funding, and Development of Regional Impact decisions.

Comprehensive Planning Leads to a Dedicated Revenue Source for Affordable Housing

The most profound result from including affordable housing in Florida’s Growth Management scheme, is that in 1992 the Florida Legislature passed the William E. Sadowski Affordable Housing Act, creating a dedicated revenue source for affordable housing in Florida. Funds provided through this program were intended in part to address what many local governments viewed as an “unfunded mandate”in the Housing Element requirement of the Growth Management and Land Development Regulation Act.

The Sadowski Act increased the documentary stamp tax paid on the transfer of all real estate in Florida. The monies generated are split between a state and local housing trust fund, administered by the Florida Housing Finance Corporation. The state trust fund receives approximately 30% of the monies; approximately 70% of the monies go to the local housing trust fund to be used by local governments under the State Housing Initiatives Partnership program (SHIP) created within the Sadowski Act. SHIP monies are granted to all 67 counties and 48 entitlement cities in Florida. Each local government receiving SHIP monies must adopt a SHIP plan that is consistent with its comprehensive plan. The SHIP plan sets forth locally adopted strategies within certain statutory parameters. For example, a minimum of 60% of the monies must be used for very low and low income households, and at least 30% of those monies must serve those earning less than 50% of area median income.

The dedicated revenue from the Sadowski Act is far greater than any other in the nation. The Sadowski Act currently generates more than $175 million each year. The Sadowski Act has leveraged more than 2.4 billion in private and other public investment dollars since its inception. Approximately six dollars of private investment leverage each dollar of Sadowski funds. The significant success of the use of SHIP funds is in large part due to the Catalyst Program created within the Sadowski Act to provide ongoing training and technical assistance to local governments and nonprofits using SHIP funds. The Department of Community Affairs contracts with the Florida Housing Coalition to provide the Catalyst training and technical assistance.

With these monies the state and local governments have some hope of meeting the affordable housing needs identified in the comprehensive planning process. Of course, even with this substantial funding, Florida has no real hope of meeting the Legislative proclamation made in 1990 that “by the year 2010 all Floridians will have a safe and decent home”.

The Future of Growth Management in Florida

The future of growth management in Florida is uncertain. At this very moment Florida’s growth management system is the subject of recommendations for change the by the Growth Management Study Commission appointed by Governor Bush, and chaired by recently appointed Secretary of HUD, Mel Martinez. Florida, like many other states, is considering implementation of the “smart growth” model used by Maryland, grounded in priority funding areas for development. In addition to priority funding areas, the Growth Management Study Commission is considering requiring local governments to use full or true cost accounting prior to approving new development. Full/true cost accounting is an analysis that affordable housing could not withstand. This is an example of where smart growth will have to prove itself smart by recognizing that affordable housing must be included as part of the infrastructure of a healthy community.

The lesson others can take from Florida’s experience is that affordable housing must be an integral part of any state’s smart growth legislation. Successful programs coordinate the provision of affordable housing with capital budgets and urban infrastructure, including schools, water and sewer, employment centers, and transportation facilities, as well as the protection of environmental resources capital budgets.

Sadowski Act Coalition

Florida’s dedicated revenue source for affordable housing enjoys the support of a broad bipartisan coalition, known as the Sadowski Coalition. Initiated in 1991 by 1000 Friends of Florida, the Sadowski Coalition includes:

• Florida Homebuilders Association

• Florida Association of Realtors

• Florida League of Cities

• Florida Association of Counties

• Florida Department of Community Affairs

• Florida Housing Finance Corporation

• Florida Legal Services

• 1000 Friends of Florida

• Florida Housing Coalition

• Florida Catholic Conference

• Florida Coalition of Affordable Housing Providers

• Florida Impact

The Sadowski Coalition has remained intact for over a decade to be an effective unified voice to ensure continued funding for affordable housing, as well as regulatory reform, such as expedited permitting for all affordable housing.

For More Information

1000 Friends of Florida Affordable Housing Program, jaimieross@aol.com

Florida Department of Community Affairs, www.dca.state.fl.us/fdcp/DCP

Florida Housing Coalition, www.flhousing.org

Florida Housing Finance Corporation, www.floridahousing.org

Shimberg Center for Affordable Housing, affhsng@nervm.nerdc.ufl.edu

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