Florida is facing an unprecedented affordable housing crisis. The state's booming population growth, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, has led to skyrocketing housing costs and dwindling availability of affordable options. This poses major challenges for lower and middle-income residents struggling to keep up with rising rents and home prices. However, for landlords and developers willing to be part of the solution, Florida's new affordable housing policies also present unique opportunities.

Purpose and scope of the Affordable Housing Act in Florida

The lack of affordable housing across Florida has reached crisis levels. Florida's population grew by over 2.7 million people from 2010 to 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic then fueled an influx of new residents drawn by Florida's lower cost of living and lack of pandemic restrictions relative to other states. This rapid in-migration coincided with a nationwide housing shortage, allowing those with higher incomes to afford higher home prices and rents, displacing lower-income residents.

By a 59% to 41% margin, Orange County, FL voters approved a rent control ordinance preventing apartment rent increases above the regional inflation rate. This victory for rent control indicates most voters feel rents are rising too quickly and need government intervention to maintain affordability. 

In response, Florida lawmakers approved a record $711 million state investment in housing initiatives this year, the largest in Florida's history. This funding allocation demonstrates the critical priority Florida has placed on expanding affordable housing supply to match overwhelming demand.

The lack of affordable housing is especially acute in major metropolitan areas like Miami, Orlando, and Tampa where job growth and population influxes have intensified housing demand. With housing costs consuming over 30-50% of incomes for many lower-wage workers, quality of life suffers as budgets for healthcare, transportation, food, and other needs are squeezed.

Key components of the act 

The 2022 Florida legislative session produced two major new affordable housing laws - the State Apartment Incentive Loan (SAIL) program and the Live Local Housing Act.

The SAIL program provides $259 million in low-interest loans and other favorable financing to affordable housing developers. By offsetting high construction costs, these incentives aim to stimulate more affordable development. SAIL funds can be used for both new construction and rehabilitation of existing affordable properties.

The Live Local Act contains multiple components benefiting landlords who provide affordable units:

  • Up to 75% property tax exemption for income-restricted affordable projects 

  • Permission to exceed local zoning density limits if 40% of units are affordable

  • Authority to build taller than zoning rules if including affordable units

  • Impact fee waivers for affordable housing developments

  • Expedited permitting and approval processes for qualifying projects 

Impact on landlords

These new laws create openings for landlords to access incentives and financing in exchange for providing affordable units. However, landlords may face additional regulations and requirements to participate.

For example, the Live Local Act's density allowances mean affordable projects can be built in commercial areas not previously zoned for housing. While presenting new opportunities, this also subjects landlords to new zoning oversight and community input. Some cities are even requiring hearings on affordable proposals to retain local control, conflicting with Live Local's intent to accelerate development.

Additionally, landlords utilizing Live Local incentives must ensure long-term income restrictions and monitoring to guarantee units remain affordable. This reduces rental income potential but enables major property tax reductions.

The income limits tied to various incentives can also pose challenges in project feasibility. For instance, a project may need some middle-income units renting above the low-income restriction to make the financing work. Balancing the unit mix to optimize incentives while ensuring profitability requires financial modeling and analysis.

Incentives for landlords

The Live Local Act contains Florida's most substantial property tax incentives ever offered for affordable housing. 

Eligible rental projects can receive up to 75% property tax exemption for units affordable up to 120% of the area median income. This "missing middle" income range helps expand affordable housing beyond just lower-income levels.

The tax savings significantly improve affordable housing feasibility by offsetting high development costs. For example, a 200-unit project with a $40 million value would normally incur $800,000 in annual property taxes. A 75% exemption would reduce this by $600,000 annually, a major boost to returns

Based on the typical assessed value per unit in Florida, a 200-unit property could save approximately $5,000 in annual taxes per affordable unit. These savings quickly multiply for larger projects, enhancing financial viability.

Impact fee waivers included in the Live Local Act provide another cost savings. Impact fees to fund infrastructure upgrades can add thousands per unit. Waiving these for affordable projects eliminates a key development cost barrier.  

The act's effect on housing accessibility

The lack of affordable housing options has reached crisis levels in Florida, especially impacting lower-income essential workers. For example, six in ten employed adults in Miami are "cost-burdened" by housing, spending over 30% of income on it - the highest rate in the U.S.

Teachers, healthcare workers, police, hospitality staff, and other modest-income occupations are increasingly locked out of Florida's housing market. Without intervention, Florida risks losing these critical workforces that support its economy. 

By stimulating new affordable development, Florida's housing laws aim to improve accessibility and relieve cost burdens. The incentives make affordable projects financially viable where they previously were not. 

Each new affordable unit created expands housing options for Florida's workforce and reduces competition for limited affordable rentals. More supply should gradually improve affordability over time.

Locating affordable housing near major job centers can also reduce transportation costs for workers. Living closer to their workplace provides financial relief while cutting commute times.

The role of zoning changes  

A key Live Local incentive is allowing affordable projects to exceed local zoning density limits if 40% of units are income-restricted (Source 2). By overriding density caps, the law enables affordable development on commercial sites not zoned for housing.

Higher density also reduces per-unit land costs, improving financial returns. Adding market-rate units above the limit further subsidizes the affordable ones to make projects feasible.

For example, a mixed-income project could build at 50 units per acre rather than the 30 units per acre allowed in that area's zoning. Those extra 20 market-rate units per acre boost revenues to offset the affordable units.

While increasing density can raise infrastructure concerns, the exemption from impact fees counters those costs. Overall, higher density is essential to providing more affordable housing.

Funding mechanisms

The $259 million in low-interest SAIL loans provide affordable housing developers favorable financing not available privately (Source 2).

Compared to market-rate construction loans with interest rates of 5-7%, SAIL loans for rental housing charge only 3% interest. SAIL loans can finance up to 90% of project costs over 30 years. 

This low-cost capital can make an affordable housing project viable where high-interest construction loans would make it infeasible. The program expands developers’ capacity to build more affordable units.

SAIL funds are allocated through a competitive application process based on criteria like location, amenities, sustainability features, and tenant populations served. Priority goes to projects in areas of critical need and those serving extremely low-income residents.

Broader socio-economic implications

Beyond addressing housing shortages, increasing affordable housing availability generates positive socio-economic impacts.

With housing consuming less of their income, workers can better afford healthcare, transportation, food, and other living expenses. Employees with affordable housing are also more productive and less likely to leave jobs.

More affordable housing construction also creates jobs and economic growth for Florida. Developing workforce housing near major job centers can reduce traffic congestion and infrastructure costs as well.

Overall, affordable housing is a wise investment in Florida's economic future. The long-term benefits outweigh the upfront costs.

Thriving cities require socioeconomic diversity inclusive of vital service workers. Affordable housing helps attract and retain these essential workforces. It also prevents homelessness and housing insecurity, which negatively impact communities.

Challenges and criticisms  

Florida's affordable housing laws have faced criticisms, including:

  • Infringing on local zoning authority over housing development

  • Allowing increased density that could strain infrastructure  

  • Reducing property tax revenues by offering exemptions

  • Requiring long-term income restrictions that limit returns

Additionally, NIMBYism (not in my backyard) opposition frequently arises against affordable projects. Misconceptions that affordable housing lowers nearby property values persist despite evidence to the contrary.

Affordable housing can also concentrate poverty if not designed thoughtfully. Mixed-income projects providing workforce housing for a range of incomes helps avoid this.

Compliance and participation requirements

To utilize Live Local incentives, landlords must comply with income verification and affordability monitoring processes. This includes initial tenant eligibility screening and annual recertification audits.

Affordable units must meet maximum income limits and rents based on HUD area median income data. Rents can only rise by a fixed percentage annually, even as market rents may increase faster. Landlords also commit to 30-50 year deed restriction terms depending on the incentive.

While limiting income potential, compliance requirements are a prerequisite to receive substantial property tax relief and other benefits. Participating landlords gain experience operating affordable housing as well.

If landlords want to take advantage of incentives but are concerned about rent payment risk, rent guarantees or insurance can provide protection. Products like TheGuarantors' Rent Guarantee insure rental income if a resident defaults.

Partnering with experienced affordable housing operators can also help navigate compliance requirements. Their expertise streamlines processes landlords may be unfamiliar with.


With housing affordability at crisis levels, Florida's new affordable housing laws present unique opportunities for landlords to be part of the solution. By utilizing available incentives, financing, and zoning tools, landlords can expand affordable housing access while also benefitting their bottom line. More affordable units developed will gradually improve Florida's housing shortage while creating positive economic impacts. Landlords ready to take on the challenge have much to gain for their communities and their businesses.