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Developers advance on Florida's Live Local Act for new affordable housing

The empty lot at 10850_East Colonial Drive sits about four miles west of UCF.
Lillian Hernández Caraballo
The empty lot at 10850 East Colonial Drive is a potential location for a new multifamily housing complex about four miles west of UCF.

Amid the growing concern for affordable housing in Central Florida, the Sunshine State’s new Live Local Act has already encouraged developers to jumpstart new housing projects.

A Florida-based company called Eastwind Developers has leveraged SB-102 to move forward with the building of a new multifamily housing complex on an empty lot just under four miles east of UCF, according to Orange County property and permitting records.

The space on 10850 East Colonial Drive is currently commercially zoned — something which would have presented an obstacle for the developers just a few weeks ago. However, one of the provisions of the Live Local Act states municipalities must approve residential projects as long as developers agree to keep 40% of the units affordable for at least 30 years.

This means residents would only be spending 30% of their incomes on rent and utilities.

Economist Hank Fishkind said the housing crisis is a result of market failures and an overall inability to supply the demand for affordable homes to people in lower income brackets. He said the new law is not bypassing processes but instead allowing for exceptions, which are key to more easily allow the private sector to step in.

“The lack of affordable housing, like many things, reflects a failure in the marketplace, and we have tried very hard to have government programs, and they've done a great job, and it's been very difficult, but clearly it is not nearly enough,” Fishkind said. “And so, to the extent that we can resolve some of the market failure and have the private sector build more of this supply, it's ultimately the way to get a lot more progress.”

Eastwind Developers has proposed to build 50 homes per acre, which is the maximum number of dwelling units allowed on the nearly-15-acre lot.

Florida’s recently enacted Live Local Act has been in effect since July 1.

Some groups, like the Florida Policy Institute, have voiced concerns that the law oversteps on the autonomy of cities and counties, limiting their say in deciding what best fits their regions.

Economist Hank Fishkind said some kind of preemptive state action is necessary, given the current circumstances.

“Well, it's a trade off, certainly,” he said. “But sticking to the economics of it, when we have a substantial market failure like our inability to provide affordable housing, then some kind of state action was necessary because local governments were unwilling or unable to provide the affordable housing that’s required.”

The developers just cleared environmental permits Friday for the project. The company’s proposal has not yet announced how many units exactly the complex will build but stated representatives will reveal more details as they become available.

Lillian Hernández Caraballo covers the stories of housing and homelessness in the Central Florida region for WMFE. She's also a Report for America corps member. 

Lillian (Lilly) Hernández Caraballo is a bilingual, multimedia journalist covering housing and homelessness for Central Florida Public Media, as a Report for America corps member.
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