Waivers, reductions in Sarasota County impact and mobility fees for affordable housing units to be focus of Jan. 18 hearing

Applicants would have to demonstrate proof that dwellings would qualify

In unanimously approving their Dec. 13 Consent Agenda of routine business matters, the Sarasota County commissioners authorized a Jan. 18, 2023 public hearing on a proposed amendment to the county’s impact fee schedule in another attempt to encourage the construction of affordable housing units.

Because the board members no longer divide their regular meetings into morning and afternoon sessions, the public notice says only that the hearing will be conducted at 9 a.m., “or as soon thereafter as possible,” in the Commission Chambers of the County Administration Center standing at 1660 Ringling Blvd. in downtown Sarasota.

The draft ordinance that will be the focus of that hearing defines affordable housing as “multi-family housing offered with a maximum mortgage or rent price including [homeowner association] fees, utilities, and other non-negotiable housing fees associated with the unit at or below the 120% AMI [Area Median Income] value listed on the latest annually updated Area Median Income Maximum Mortgage and Rent Table for the North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton Area produced by Sarasota County Government and updated annually.”

The county website explains that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development sets the AMI levels every year for Metropolitan Statistical Areas in the United States.

Any entity “wishing to qualify for an affordable impact fee reduction for Library, Park, or Mobility impact fees” would have to submit a written application to the county’s impact fee administrator, the ordinance adds.

Such reductions are allowed under Section 163.31801(11) of the Florida Statutes, an April 8 county staff report explained. That section of state law says, “A county, municipality, or special district may provide an exception or waiver for an impact fee for the development or construction of housing that is affordable, as defined in [Section 420.9071 of the Florida Statutes]. If a county, municipality, or special district provides such an exception or waiver, it is not required to use any revenue to offset the impact.”

The county staff report did point out that any amendment to the county’s impact fee regulations would have to specify the criteria for obtaining the lower fees.

Staff recommended that 100% of the mobility, library and park impact fees be waived for just nonprofit, multi-family residential projects with rent or sales prices that are at 30% of the AMI or below.

However, following a May 24 discussion with the County Commission, a staff memo in the Dec. 13 meeting packet notes, the board members modified that proposal, as reflected in the language in the draft ordinance that will be considered during the January 2023 public hearing.

That draft explains that both the library and park impact fees “imposed for all complete building permit applications qualifying as an affordable housing project,” submitted to and accepted by the county on or after March 1, 2023, would be allowed as follows:

  • Multi-family housing offered at 60% AMI or below will pay 0% impact fees;
  • Multi-family housing offered above 60% and up to 80% AMI will pay 50% of the impact fees.
  • Multi-family housing offered above 80% and up to 120% AMI will pay 75% of the impact fees.
  • Multi-family housing offered above 120% AMI will pay 100% of the impact fees.

Both nonprofit and for-profit housing developments would be eligible, the county staff memo points out.

As for the mobility impact fees: The draft ordinance says that any affordable housing units offered at or below 60% AMI would not be charged mobility fees.

Affordable, attainable or workforce housing units offered above 60% AMI but no higher than 80% AMI would be charged 50% of the mobility fees.

Any developer applying for those lower or waived fees would have to provide proof that the maximum mortgage or total rental price of each affected dwelling — including the homeowner association fees, utilities and “other non-negotiable housing fees associated with the unit” — would meet the AMI amounts specified in the latest table for the North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton Area, the staff memo adds.