Will Florida Retirees Find Affordable Housing with Live Local Act?

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Florida has a growing population. It also trails Maine with the second highest population of residents who are 65 or older. Finding affordable homes for the state’s influx of older residents has become a serious issue.

Florida’s Affordable Housing Crisis

Long seen as a warm-weather retirement destination, Florida’s popularity with seniors comes with a cost. The demand for housing is increasing more quickly than new construction in many parts of the Sunshine State. In the Greater Miami area (consisting of Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties), the disparity between supply and demand has caused a “severe crisis of housing unaffordability.” 

Greater Miami is now the seventh least affordable large metropolitan area in the world. It is less affordable than New York City, a city plagued by expensive housing that has attempted to preserve affordability with rent control. While Miami’s crisis affects all low-income residents, it is particularly hard on fixed-income retirees who lack the resources needed to meet the increasing expense of housing.

Miami is not the only city in Florida that faces an affordable housing crisis. Ocala, Jacksonville, and Pensacola are among the other communities that are seeing homeowners forced out of residences they can no longer afford. 

Whether they want to rent or buy, retirees living on a modest fixed income may find it difficult to find affordable housing in Florida. Many residents are spending more than half their income on housing because of rising rents. Florida as a whole has been characterized as “one of the most overvalued housing markets in the entire country.” A sharp rise in home prices has been met with a homeowners’ insurance crisis, as insurers respond to climate change — and the hurricanes and rising sea levels it is causing — by pulling out of the Florida market.

The Live Local Act

To combat its housing crisis, Florida enacted the Live Local Act. The Act:

  • provides about $460 million to a public-private partnership that provides funds for local governments to create their own public-private partnerships to develop affordable housing for low-to-moderate-income working families;
  • provides $109 million for a program that makes low-interest loans to affordable housing developers, plus $150 million for loans to developers near military bases;
  • provides $100 million to boost state-assisted housing projects that never began construction because of high borrowing rates; 
  • provides $100 million for a down payment assistance program for low-income home purchasers who have a Florida employer; and
  • gives a variety of tax breaks to developers and other corporate taxpayers.

The Act limits the ability of local governments to make their own zoning decisions if those decisions would impair state-approved construction projects. Oddly, the Act prohibits rent control ordinances, a local measure that has a direct impact on affordable housing. 

The Act also removes certain documents from the state’s “Sunshine Law,” a formerly robust law that added transparency to government decision-making. That change might make it difficult to identify the true beneficiaries of government grants, loans, and tax breaks.

Whether the Act will be an effective remedy for Florida’s affordable housing crisis or a giveaway to developers at taxpayer expense remains to be seen. The Act has been criticized for prioritizing funding for housing that will benefit employed Floridians. It may provide little relief for older adults who are living on a retirement income.

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