TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — When it comes to addressing the housing crisis, three issues stand out. First is the question of how many homes are available. The second is how much does it cost to rent, buy or build a new place to live. Finally, if you’re building a home or apartment building, where do you put it?

The last one is a question plaguing Florida lawmakers and developers alike as more people move to the state and the number of available places to live continues to dwindle.

A new bill proposed in Florida’s 2022 legislative session tries to answer the question of where can people build, but in its approach, it complicates the question of how much will it cost to build. 

Senate Bill 962 seeks to address where you can build affordable housing projects and mixed-use developments. However, it also shakes up what state funding sources developers can access when building places to live for low-income residents.

SB 962 essentially does two things.

First, it allows local governments like county commissions or city councils to allow residential construction on parcels zoned for commercial or industrial use, so long as at least 10% of the units will be for affordable housing.

By affordable housing, senate analysis said the bill would focus on providing homes or units to those making 80% or less of their local area median income. In Florida, that can vary by location, such as city or county. Florida’s median income in 2019 was $55,660, according to the state Department of Health.

The second thing SB 962 does is change how developers build these affordable housing, or mixed-use residential developments may apply for state funding to aid in construction. Senate analysis of SB 962 describes two programs that are typically used for building housing in Florida, administered by the Florida Housing Finance Corporation.

Instead, the bill gives developers the choice of sacrificing a source of state funding to expand building location options. 

“Florida Housing is eligible to receive both state and federal funding to execute its affordable housing programs. Principal state funding, if appropriated, comes from documentary stamp tax revenues distributed to the State Housing Trust Fund and the Local Government Housing Trust Fund,” the analysis said. “Programs supported by the two trust funds include the State Apartment Incentive Loan Program (SAIL) and the State Housing Initiatives Partnership Program (SHIP).”

Through the proposed bill, developers building affordable housing or mixed-use residences would be unable to benefit from building on the commercial or industrial zones while also receiving SAIL Program funds.

The loan program is intended to give developers “low-interest loans on a competitive basis to affordable housing developers each year.” The funds are available to public entities, non-profit organizations, and for-profit organizations that construct or perform “substantial rehabilitation” of multifamily units, benefitting low-income individuals and families.

According to the FHFC, the SAIL Program requires “a minimum of 20% of the development’s units must be set aside for families earning 50% or less of the area median income.” The loans have a 0% interest rate for developers who keep “80% of their occupancy for farmworkers, commercial fishing workers or homeless people” with a maximum repayment time of 15 years unless given alternatives by Fannie Mae, one of two federally-backed mortgage companies.

Where to build homes has become a bigger issue as more people move to Florida. Tampa has become the part of the state with the largest amount of new residents. The biggest portion of new homes purchased in any single area of the state were bought in Tampa at the end of 2021. 

At the same time, the available housing inventory across Florida has continued to shrink. Tampa alone had a 25% drop of available homes and apartments over 2021, with a 7.6% drop just in December. It’s caused the city to be named Zillow’s hottest housing market for 2022.

Rent hikes in Tampa have also hit record highs for the state and nation, though not always at the very top of the rankings.

At the same time, the available housing inventory across Florida has continued to shrink. Tampa alone had a 25% drop of available homes and apartments over 2021, with a 7.6% drop just in December. It’s caused the city to be named Zillow’s hottest housing market for 2022.

While political figures continue to work on ways to address the housing issue, state analysts from the Office of Economic and Demographic Research predict about 850 people will move to Florida every day from 2021 to 2026. Materials and locations to build residences make material costs and urban density key factors in how cities plan to expand.

For now, solutions to the questions of where to live and is it affordable remain a work in progress.