Here's What Florida Realtors Is Watching During the 2024 Session
Hometown Heroes Housing Program
Florida Realtors® is grateful for the actions of the 2023 Florida Legislature in passing the Live Local Act, the most comprehensive and far-reaching housing legislation seen in the last three decades. This historic law makes significant long-term investments in both state homebuying and affordable rental housing, while also incentivizing private investment in state housing programs.
Included in the Live Local Act was an additional $100 million for the highly successful Hometown Heroes Housing Program, which helps hard-working Floridians buy their first home through zero-interest loans that are repaid when the home is sold, rented or transferred. The legislature’s investment in the popular homebuying assistance program was an overwhelming success as the additional funds were expended in less than two months of becoming available, helping thousands of Floridians achieve the dream of homeownership. In fact, the quick expenditure of these additional funds prompted the program’s administrator, the Florida Housing Finance Corporation, to shift funds from other available sources to help meet application demands, and that money began being reserved the moment it became available.
Given the success of the Hometown Heroes Housing Program and the demonstrated need for these funds in a difficult home affordability environment, Florida Realtors® asks that lawmakers:
- Explore additional ways to inject new funds into the program to help more hard-working Floridians achieve the dream of homeownership.
Rising Property Insurance Costs
Florida Realtors® applauds the Florida Legislature for taking unprecedented steps during the December 2022 Special Session to stabilize Florida’s challenging property insurance market. Additionally, the actions of the 2023 Legislature to increase consumer protections and insurer accountability will go a long way to ensuring Florida policyholders are treated fairly and that legitimate claims are honored.
Thankfully, these comprehensive insurance reforms are beginning to bear fruit with reports indicating 1) new property insurers are entering Florida’s market, 2) Citizens Property Insurance is beginning to “depopulate,” 3) the reinsurance needs of Florida’s property insurers are being met by reinsurers across the globe, and 4) insurer-related litigation is slowing.
While these reports are encouraging, the average property insurance premium remains high and presents a significant barrier to both achieving and maintaining the dream of homeownership. As such, Florida Realtors® asks that lawmakers:
- Continue to monitor the effectiveness of these reforms to ensure they attract insurance capital back to Florida as quickly as possible.
- Explore additional remedies that can speed up this process.
- Continue looking for additional solutions to provide short-term relief to policyholders.
Business Rent Tax
Florida Realtors® is grateful for the actions of previous legislatures that lowered the state sales tax rate on commercial leases, known as the Business Rent Tax. This tax rate currently stands at 4.5% but will drop to 2% later in 2024 based on the work of the 2021 Legislature.
Although reduced from its previous high of 6%, the tax continues to create a financial burden for any business that leases space — from the local restaurant and nail salon to large retail stores. What’s more, municipalities and local governments often levy additional local option taxes on top of the state sales tax rate, inflating the burden even further. Small businesses, which make up almost 99% of all Florida employers, are disproportionately impacted by this tax, because they are more likely to rent their location.
Lowering, and eventually eliminating the business rent tax will provide Florida businesses with the capital to expand, hire more employees, improve benefits and raise salaries. Given the positive impact of lowering the Business Rent Tax, Florida Realtors® asks that lawmakers:
- Support legislation and budget initiatives that will further reduce and/or eliminate this tax so that business owners have capital to grow their operations and reinvest in their local communities.
The tragic June 2021 collapse of the Champlain Towers South building in Surfside Fla. highlighted the need for comprehensive reform of existing condominium law. Lawmakers answered the call by passing a series of reforms aimed at increasing the safety of these buildings as well as ensuring that prospective purchasers are better informed about the building’s physical and financial condition.
Included in these reforms were new statewide “milestone inspection” requirements, structural integrity reserve studies, mandatory reserves, and revised seller disclosures.
Although these reforms are necessary to protect the safety and welfare of condominium unit owners and visitors, they will also make the condominium form of homeownership more expensive. This is especially troubling since condominiums represent affordable housing in many areas of Florida, or are occupied by persons on fixed incomes. With these challenges in mind, Florida Realtors® asks that lawmakers:
- Support legislation that increases transparency of community association governing documents on a street address level, thus allowing prospective purchasers and sellers to make more informed decisions.
My Safe Florida Home Program
Support additional funding for the My Safe Florida Home Program which provides funding for free home inspections and matches funding for home enhancements to harden homes against storms. The home hardening program has enjoyed significant popularity amongst Florida homeowners, but this popularity has exhausted its funding. More funding for the program will allow Floridians to protect their homes from storms while reducing escalating insurance premiums.
Florida’s Natural Resources
Continue to allocate state funding to help protect the Everglades, Florida’s springs and beaches, and other related water quality projects. Additionally, support legislation and funding that addresses the impact of failing septic systems on water quality, harmful blue-green algae blooms and rising sea levels.
Private Property Rights
Vacation rentals have become a critical part of Florida’s successful tourism-based economy, producing billions of dollars of economic activity each year. Being able to rent your home is also a fundamental right of private property owners. Despite this, many local governments continue to enact new, overly burdensome ordinances designed to discourage property owners from exercising this right. Florida Realtors® encourages state lawmakers to support legislation that creates a statewide, uniform system of regulations for vacation rentals and gives local governments the authority to pass ordinances related to residential properties as long as they apply to all residential properties.
Live Local Act
The Live Local Act was a remarkable accomplishment by the 2023 Legislature and Florida Realtors applauds their efforts to meaningfully address the state’s home affordability issues. In addition to historic levels of housing program funding, the new law also instituted a variety of public-private partnerships and changes to building regulations designed to increase affordable rental inventory throughout the state. Florida Realtors asks lawmakers to ensure that these innovative housing strategies are implemented as required by law so more Floridians can afford a place to live in the communities where they work and serve.