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  • Writer's pictureFlorida Trust

2021 Legislative Watch Update: Building Design Bills (SB284/HB55) in the Florida Legislature

On March 18, the Florida Trust met virtually with several Florida legislators as part of its annual legislative visits to connect with state lawmakers. During the meetings, the Florida Trust recognized the positive amendments that have been made to the companion bills SB284/HB55 regulating building design for one and two-family dwellings. The Senate Community Affairs committee meeting made a favorable recommendation to move the bill forward with the revised text agreed upon with one of the bill’s sponsors, Senator Keith Perry who represents Alachua, Putnam and part of Marion county.

What does the amended bill do? The revised text of the bill now allows local jurisdictions to retain design review authority for buildings that are listed in the National Register or located in a National Register district as well as those that are locally listed as part of a preservation ordinance. Additionally, Community Redevelopment Areas (CRA) are exempted from the bill as are Planned Unit Developments (PUD) or other master planned communities. The only restriction is that the PUD or master planned community must have been in place by July 1, 2021. There is no time restriction set for the historic designation or CRA exemption which will allow future properties to be designated and remain within local design review authority. For the many reasons stated in the earlier reporting of this bill, the Florida Trust recognizes the economic and community benefits of historic buildings and neighborhoods and is pleased that this bill was amended.

Are there any remaining concerns? The Florida Trust has heard from constituents including St. Augustine and St. Petersburg that there is still a missing piece which can affect the ability for historic urban areas to encourage affordable housing and density. Florida’s communities are facing many challenges with growth and housing for low and middle-income groups. Established historic or older neighborhoods often discourage the construction of affordable housing because they are developed with a priority on low cost only. As a result, they are often built in a manner that is incompatible which is used as the reason to reject them in the community. Building accessory dwelling units is one tool that can be used to develop affordable housing units for the middle-class and young professionals who are attracted to the services and amenities of established neighborhoods but cannot otherwise afford to do so. Architectural overlay areas can be used as an incentive to encourage established neighborhoods to be more receptive to smaller and affordable housing units which will bring in more density and economic development to Florida’s Main Streets. The Florida Trust will continue to ask for an exemption to architectural overlay areas to encourage development and livability in these communities.

Stay tuned for updates on hearings of the companion Building Design bills. Neither is currently on an active agenda which means this is a good time to contact your legislators to let them know how this bill will affect their constituents.

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