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Will a revamped Live Local Act spur more development?

Mark Parker

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St. Petersburg recently received its first project proposal under the Live Local Act. Lawmakers and stakeholders believe amendments will foster more housing developments. Photo by Mark Parker.

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed new legislation into law March 16 that amends Florida’s Live Local Act and offers housing developers additional concessions to jumpstart construction.

The new law, known as the “Glitch Bill,” addresses issues in the original legislation. The Live Local Act, enacted in June 2023, superseded local zoning regulations, provided tax incentives and increased density allowances for projects meeting housing thresholds.

However, St. Petersburg did not receive its first project proposal under the new legislation until April. Sen. Nick DiCeglie believes the amendments will spur development and noted that Live Local’s “whole purpose” was to mitigate bureaucratic hurdles and delays.

“We (legislators) also want to empower local governments to have the tools available to make these projects a reality,” DiCeglie told the Catalyst. “We’ve heard, time and time again, that it’s taken years and decades. We don’t want to hear those excuses anymore – because we’re in a crisis.”

Live Local permits mixed-income projects with at least 40% of housing units for those earning less than 120% of the area median income (AMI) – $104,280 for a family of four in St. Pete – in previously prohibited areas. Projects can include a jurisdiction’s maximum allowable units per acre and match the height of the tallest commercial or residential building within a mile of the site.

Under the Glitch Bill, developers can now utilize up to 150% of a jurisdiction’s floor area ratio (FAR) allowance. Jim Shimberg, a Tampa-based land use and development attorney with Shubin Law Group, said that provides additional flexibility to create more units and “make the numbers work.”

Shimberg, also a partner with The Euclid Group and former city attorney, said several clients are “looking very hard at the changes.” He noted that developers must navigate persistently high interest rates and construction costs, and many are “looking at this with fresh eyes and saying, ‘Let’s see if we can try to make that work.'”

“I had a client that was looking at a project in Pinellas Park, and they were trying to make the numbers work,” Shimberg added. “There ended up being like 30 other offers on the property.”

The Glitch Bill allows developers to create condominiums and sell rather than rent a project’s market-rate units. The law also mandates local governments reduce parking requirements by 20% for developments within a half-mile of transit hub.

Shimberg said each jurisdiction would likely have varying interpretations of what constitutes a transit hub. However, stakeholders believe the amendments will provide stakeholders with much-needed clarity.

“Everyone was really lobbying for changes, whether they were pro or anti-further development and preemptions within the Act,” said Harrison Denman, a research analyst with The Euclid Group.

He said the amendments are “mostly favorable” for developers. However, there are some new protections.

A proposed workforce housing development at 3100 22nd Ave. N. is St. Petersburg’s first filed under the Live Local Act. Photo: Google.

Local governments can restrict the height of projects near single-family neighborhoods with 25 or more homes to 150% of the tallest building on the adjacent property or three stories, whichever is higher. The Glitch Bill prohibits Live Local projects within airport flight paths and those that exceed aviation height restrictions.

Municipal officials can also opt out of Live Local’s 75% property tax exemption if they can show a surplus of affordable and workforce (below 120% AMI) units. Pasco County Commissioners recently started that process to discourage utilization.

“They’re not a big fan of these projects,” Shimberg said. “They’re trying to protect their tax base … because they’re concerned there will be an influx of these projects, which is going to adversely affect them economically.

“Everybody is looking at it a little bit differently.”

Shimberg said Live Local projects might make more sense in areas with higher AMIs, like St. Pete. Monthly rents for two-bedroom apartments in Pinellas County at 120% could reach $2,349.

Shimberg said the area has several redevelopment opportunities and government-owned sites. Denman noted that St. Pete officials have seemingly embraced legislation meant to foster housing construction.

He also said mixed-use developments in underutilized strip malls or industrial sites could offset potential property tax losses. “Even if you’re getting an exemption on your affordable (housing), you’re adding all this new development that you’re going to have to pay taxes on,” Denman added.

Shimberg said most stakeholders believe the amendments will have a positive impact. DiCeglie pledged that legislators would continue analyzing the landmark legislation’s effects.

“I think every year, we want to get that feedback from the community, developers and local governments,” DiCeglie said. “If we can continue tweaking the legislation … to make it easier and make these projects a reality, I’m certainly going to be open to doing it. And I know my colleagues will be open to doing it, too.”

 

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    Paul

    May 28, 2024at3:17 pm

    “I think every year, we want to get that feedback from the community, developers and local governments,” DiCeglie said. (And everyone laughed)

    The state has relentlessly taken away control from locally elected officials and the only “community” the legislature cares about are those who donate a lot of money. I will concede that Mr. DiCeglie and the majority of the legislature seem to care a lot about developers.

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