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2021 FAA Legislative Conference Topics

Posted By: Eric Garduño Advocacy News ,

2/3 Update - All participating BAAA members MUST complete the Legislative Meetings Participant Survey so we can assign you to meetings: Link to the BAAA Participant Survey

2/3 Update - All Legislative Meeting participants should download the Legislative Meeting background and have it saved as your background within the Zoom application: DOWNLOAD THE BAAA ZOOM BACKGROUND HERE

2/3 Update - FAA has developed several documents to prepare you for these meetings. The most important to bring you up to speed on the issues we are covering are the FAA Legislative Talking Points available here.  You can access the remaining FAA background materials prepared here (you will need to be logged into your FAA account).

When the link to the FAA Legislative Briefing becomes available, we will post it here.  

Legislative Meetings Caucus Session - BAAA held a preparation session on February 2nd to give new and old participants an overview of what to expect during the legislative meetings.  Topics include how meetings are being scheduled, what a meeting is like, and things to remember before, during, and after a meeting.  

The 2021 FAA Legislative Conference will focus on the following topics:

  • Protect Sadowski Fund and Provide Rental Assistance
  • Establish COVID-19 Liability Protections
  • Allow Affordable Housing Tax Incentives
  • Clarify Fire Radio Signal Requirements

FAA has provided background information regarding each of these issues via a series of emails to conference participants.  Below is the information on each provided in those emails.  Please note FAA will provide additional information on these topics at the Legislative Briefing Zoom session on Wednesday, February 3, at 1:30PM.  Please send a message to gad@baaahq.org if you do not have a link to that meeting.  

Protect Sadowski Fund and Provide Rental Assistance

Issue:

The Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund helps the apartment industry by providing money to build and repair affordable apartment homes for Florida’s most vulnerable populations.

Background:

More than 780,000 Florida households spend at least 40 percent of their income on rent. Access to affordable housing is critical for the future of Florida’s growing economy.

The Sadowski Act (1992) created a dedicated revenue source to fund Florida’s affordable housing programs. The housing trust fund, which is also known as the Sadowski fund, is financed by document stamp taxes that are paid on all real estate transactions that take place in the state.

The preservation of the Sadowski fund is important for the Florida apartment industry because the demand for apartment homes continues to rise. Sadowski funds help mitigate the high demand for new affordable apartment homes across the state by aiding in the construction or refurbishment of affordable units.

How This Impacts the Apartment Industry:

Sadowski funds are reinvested into the community to help Florida’s most vulnerable populations, which include veterans, the elderly, people experiencing homelessness, and persons with special needs. In general, 30 percent of the funding is used for initiatives such as the State Apartment Incentive Loan (SAIL) program and 70 percent of the trust fund resources are used for single-family housing initiatives (SHIP). In the apartment industry, SAIL funds are used to rehabilitate existing apartments or build new units where additional affordable housing is needed. During the COVID-19 pandemic, SHIP funds were used to support local rent relief programs before federal relief was provided, which helped residents in need maintain quality rental housing.

As Florida’s economy and the job market continue to recover from the pandemic in the months ahead, it is critical for local rental assistance programs to continue to be adequately funded. In December 2020, Congress appropriated roughly $1.4 billion in additional federal funding for rental assistance programs in Florida. However, this new funding is restricted based on certain factors, including area median income (AMI), and as a result, some Floridians who are in need will not qualify for federal assistance. In light of the federal funding restrictions and the tremendous ongoing need for rental assistance, the Legislature should use all of the Housing Trust Fund monies for Florida’s housing programs, including rent relief.

Legislative Solution:

The Florida Apartment Association urges the Legislature to use all of the Housing Trust Fund monies exclusively for Florida’s housing programs and to provide resources for local rent relief programs. In addition, FAA encourages the Legislature to pass SB 510 (Sen. Ed Hooper)/HB 13 (Rep. Sam Killebrew), which will prevent the Legislature from diverting any cash balances in the Housing Trust Fund for other purposes within the state budget.

Where do these bills stand?

[UPDATE FORTHCOMING] The Legislature has not yet proposed a budget or an allocation for the Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund. The Legislature will begin the appropriations process after the governor submits his budget proposal in February. Similarly, both bills have not had a hearing at this time. Please stay tuned for future updates, as it is still very early in the legislative process.

What is the status of the rent relief recently allocated by the U.S. Congress?

On January 12, Governor Ron DeSantis announced that Florida submitted confirmation to the U.S. Department of the Treasury to take part in the Emergency Rental Assistance Program established under the federal COVID-19 relief legislation that was signed into law by the president on December 27. In this announcement, the governor indicated that the disbursement of funds from the federal government will occur in the coming weeks and additional information will be released by the State of Florida once further guidance is provided by the federal government.

Establish COVID-19 Liability Protections

Issue:

Despite housing providers’ best efforts to protect residents and employees throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, there is an unprecedented threat of legal liability.

Background:

Like many other essential businesses, housing providers have worked diligently during the pandemic to ensure apartment communities can continue to provide a clean, safe, and well maintained home for Florida’s 2.8 million renters. The rental housing industry has taken extraordinary measures to ensure the safety of both employees and residents by creating new procedures to reduce in-person interaction, implementing amenity changes to adapt to the COVID-19 environment, offering virtual tours and meetings with apartment leasing staff, and so much more.

How This Impacts the Apartment Industry:

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, housing providers and their employees have been deemed essential workers. The housing industry has taken steps to help existing residents remain in their homes, while also welcoming new residents into their ideal apartment home. At a time when Floridians are spending more time at home than ever before, the continued operation of Florida’s apartment communities remains essential to providing a safe place for Florida’s 2.8 million apartment residents to call home.

Unfortunately, an apartment community’s essential operation comes with increased liability risks during the COVID-19 pandemic. In light of this increased litigation risk, reasonable and temporary liability protections for essential businesses are needed to ensure housing providers can continue to perform the functions necessary to provide quality rental homes for residents. Housing providers who continue to heed state, federal, and local guidelines to protect residents and employees must be protected from litigation.

Legislative Solution:

The Florida Apartment Association urges the Legislature to pass HB 7 (Rep. Lawrence McClure) and SB 72 (Sen. Jeff Brandes) to provide reasonable COVID-19 liability protections for businesses, including housing providers, during the pandemic. If this legislation were enacted, businesses that make a good faith effort to substantially comply with applicable COVID-19 guidance would be immune from liability from a COVID-19-related civil action.

Where do these bills stand?

[UPDATE FORTHCOMING] It is still very early in the legislative process, as committee weeks begin in Tallahassee this week. FAA is pleased to report that HB 7 will have its first committee hearing on Wednesday, January 13, in the House Civil Justice & Property Rights Subcommittee.

Allow Affordable Housing Tax Incentives

Issue:

Housing affordability remains a top concern for elected officials at the local and state level. In fact, Florida has a critical need for more affordable housing with a shortage of 400,033 rental homes that are affordable and available for extremely low-income renters.

Background:

In order for a new apartment community construction project to break ground, a developer must secure financing from investors, who demand a specific rate of return in exchange for their investment. It is difficult for developers to achieve the necessary rate of return for affordable apartments, which are rented below market rate. As a result, it can be extremely challenging for a developer to secure the financing needed to make an affordable housing construction project feasible.

Because of these challenges, developers rely on a combination of state and federal tax incentives along with private funding. However, the process of obtaining these government tax incentives is extremely competitive, with a very limited number of projects ultimately receiving this type of funding each year.

Florida law currently lacks clarity regarding a municipality’s ability to waive or reduce local property tax rates for affordable housing, which is an impediment to encouraging the construction of affordable apartment communities at the local level.

How This Impacts the Apartment Industry:

According to a recent research study conducted by the Florida Apartment Association, regulatory requirements and municipal policies can increase the rent required to operate an apartment community by 12%-17%. To put this in perspective, local policies can shift affordability from requiring a household to earn $64,000 annually in order to afford a two bedroom apartment to requiring a household annual income of $75,000 to afford the same apartment.

As a result of rising construction costs and the challenges associated with obtaining the limited number of state and federal tax credits that are currently available, many housing developers are unable to construct new affordable apartments. In light of the dire need for more affordable housing, the Legislature should take action to provide local governments with the authority to offer additional tax incentives at the local level at their discretion.

Legislative Solution:

The Florida Apartment Association urges the Legislature to pass SB 674 (Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez), which provides local governments with the ability to waive or reduce property taxes for affordable housing units.

Where does this bill stand?

[UPDATE FORTHCOMING] SB 674 was introduced on January 15 and has not been assigned to any committees yet, since it is early in the process. FAA expects a House companion bill to be introduced shortly. FAA will share additional details about this legislation's committee activity as it becomes available.

Clarify Fire Radio Signal Requirements

Issue:

Florida Statute 633.202 was amended in 2016 to give local governments discretion to regulate fire radio systems for buildings within their jurisdiction. However, the vague language that is currently in the statute is creating implementation inconsistencies and unintended consequences for property owners across the state.

Background:

Under the current statute, local governments have the authority to determine the signal strength needed for existing and new buildings within their jurisdiction. Existing apartment buildings are not required to comply with local signal strength requirements until January 1, 2025. However, apartment buildings are required to apply for the appropriate permit for the required communications installation by December 31, 2022.

The problem is the current statute does not articulate any minimum requirements for municipal radio equipment, timelines for ongoing equipment inspection, or the ability of a municipality to withhold a certificate of occupancy, which must be obtained prior to residents moving into a newly constructed apartment community.

How This Impacts the Apartment Industry:

The apartment industry recognizes the importance of fire safety in high-rise buildings. However, the vague language in the current statute is problematic and should be addressed to:

  • Require local radio systems to meet a minimum national standard.
  • Provide a reasonable timeline for inspections (not more than one every three years).
  • Require local governments to provide developers with a radio signal coverage heat map to help determine whether a project will have a radio strength signal issue early in the construction process.
  • Clarify the certificate of occupancy process as it relates to radio signal system requirements. 

Legislative Solution:

The Florida Apartment Association urges the Legislature to pass legislation to clarify fire department radio signal requirements for new and existing high-rise buildings and address the issues outlined above.

Has a bill been introduced to address this issue?

At this time, a bill has not yet been introduced to address this issue. However, FAA is working with members of the Legislature to get bills introduced in both the House and Senate. Please stay tuned for additional updates as they arise.