Inclusionary Zoning is one of the many municipal tools for increasing affordable housing stock. However, the Florida Legislature has decided to pre-empt that unless Governor DeSantis steps in.
Inclusionary zoning is a known term among urbanism and housing policy circles. It is a commonly used tool in major cities across the world in order to diversify their housing stock by requiring or incentivizing developers in certain areas to build a certain percentage of units to be affordable. While cities like San Francisco, Berlin, and Hong Kong use these and other tools to secure the future of their cities, the State of Florida has decided to ban this ability for its many cities.
Yesterday the State Legislature passed a preemption measure, banning any mandatory inclusionary zoning laws without an appropriate payback to the developers. The bill began as a ban on all inclusionary zoning and restrictions on a municipality’s ability to mandate price-controlled housing units be set aside for any particular group of people (such as all low-income housing, senior housing, etc). Thankfully those portions of the bill were cut, however, the State’s continued attack on a municipality’s ability to govern is detrimental to a State as diverse as Florida.
South Florida has made consistent headlines as one of the most unfavorable housing cities in the country. The income to rent disparity is worse in Miami than it is in San Francisco. It is for these reasons that the county commissioned a housing master plan from FIU that is scheduled to be completed soon. The county also manages a number of affordable housing sites, but many of those will expire within the decade and cities across the state are in desperate need for newly constructed units. This need is not made easier by the state’s restriction.
A Connect Miami report just concluded that the city of Miami needs 50,000 affordable units just to meet current demand. The city currently has an inclusionary zoning density bonus for projects adjacent to the urban core. It allows for a double density variance if 30% of the housing is designated affordable (rented to those with less than 60% of the median income). As this is a bonus that gives an incentive it sits outside of the final bill. The map above shows all of the current inclusionary zoning ordinances across the state. None are without incentives, and only 1 is mandatory (Palm Beach). The incentives include density bonuses, expedited reviews, waving impact fees, etc. However, mandatory inclusionary zoning in certain targeted areas has been discussed by many municipal legislatures, and that choice should be left up to them.
In recent sessions, the state legislature has preempted plastic straw bans, styrofoam bans, plastic bag bans, regulating ride sharing, annexing or purchasing property in adjacent cities, regulating nicotine, banning sunscreen that is harmful to coral, and more. This session, over 50 preemption laws alone were proposed by the state legislature. It seems that Tallahassee’s favorite action is telling cities what to do.
Florida is a diverse state with diverse problems. There are towns that beg for development, and cities that are trying to curb it; Majority-minority counties, and counties where minorities make up less than 10% of the population; Beaches, swamps, hill-country, and forests; Retirement communities, and communities where the median age is a decade lower than the state median. In a state with this kind of diversity, local government should matter, and the state’s systematic attack on it is counterproductive. Governor DeSantis has an opportunity to send a message to his legislature and veto some of these insider proposals. I hope he takes it.