DeSantis Beefs Up Live Local Act to Boost Construction of Multifamily Dev

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Despite fierce opposition from local governments, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law Thursday an updated version of the sweeping Live Local Act, which further boosts developers’ ability to build dense projects with some workforce housing apartments. 

The bill, which first became law in 2023, remains one of the most aggressive attempts to tackle housing affordability at the state level. Thanks to an influx of new residents during the pandemic, housing costs across Florida skyrocketed. Miami-Dade County alone lacks 90,181 rental units for those earning less than $75,000 annually, according to nonprofit Miami Homes For All.

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“If we can’t find a way to house our workforce in a way where we don’t disconnect them from the best locations for employment, then we’re going to have issues. That’s going to kind of be our Achilles’ heel,” said Anthony De Yurre, an attorney at Bilzin Sumberg who helped write the Live Local Act.

In areas zoned for commercial or mixed uses, the law allows developers to bypass local restrictions for mixed-use developments in which at least 40 percent of units are priced as workforce housing, defined as being affordable for people who earn up to 120 percent of the area’s median income. 

But the original Live Local Act did not address floor area ratio, a measure for a project’s density, which led to confusion and delayed the approval process. Now, the new version bars local governments from restricting developments that are up to 150 percent of the current floor to area ratio, while shielding single-family home neighborhoods. 

The updated law removes parking requirements for transit-oriented projects and reduces parking requirements by 20 percent for those a half-mile from a transit hub.

The act also boosts tax incentives for developers. In addition to covering the residential component, the tax break now also applies to the property’s land and common areas, essentially doubling the tax benefit for developers and landlords.

Critics have taken issue with Live Local Act for stripping away the veto powers of municipalities, for not requiring enough workforce housing apartments, and for giving too many tax breaks to developers. When the original bill passed, a slew of municipalities, including Doral, pushed back by launching moratoriums on new developments. 

In one of the most high-profile cases, the owner of the Bal Harbour Shops luxury mall sued Bal Harbour’s municipal government for allegedly stalling its plans to expand the property using the Live Local Act. 

But many developers are moving ahead, such as Asi Cymbal. All 341 units at his Laguna Gardens development in Miami Gardens, which was completed this year, will be covered by the Live Local Act. Next year, the developer expects to save over $1 million in taxes. Cymbal is now exploring how his other developments, in Dania Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami’s Midtown neighborhood, could benefit from the new law. 

Lawmakers created have “financial incentives or density incentives that wouldn’t otherwise exist — it’s really a win-win situation,” Cymbal said.

Julia Echikson can be reached at jechikson@commercialobserver.com