SCAA ADVOCACY UPDATE

Posted By: William Jaycox Legislative & Legal ,

SCAA’s Advocacy Update


In an effort to keep SCAA members aware of the latest in industry advocacy, I have compiled a
few summaries of some of the hot button topics below. Included in this article, you will find brief
explanations of issues at the city, county, and state level, as well as, the Florida Apartment
Association’s legislative priorities for the 2020 legislative session.
In reponse to housing affordablilty challenges around the state, local jurisdictions are amending
their housing discrimination policies to include “source of income” as a protected class. These
“source of income” protections intend to require apartment communities to accept section 8
vouchers with the goal of improving access to housing options for low-income individuals.
Unfortunately, this policy change leads to unnecessary bureaucratic requirements and potential
loss of profit for apartment communities.


Renewed Interest in Protected Classes


As you may know, the section 8 voucher program requires a special leasing process that is
coordinated with the local public housing authority. Participation in the Section 8 voucher
program leads to additional bureaucratic requirements that burden apartment management
companies tremendously when compared to the traditional leasing process. In response to local
ordinances that mandate participation in the Section 8 voucher program, FAA attempts to
educate local elected officials regarding the voluntary nature of this federal program and the
cumberson program requirements.


Source of income protections have popped up recently in St. Petersburg, Alachua County, and
now in Flagler County. St. Petersburg initially included source of income as a protected class in
a recent Renter’s Rights ordinance but this provision was removed before the ordinance was
passed. If you would like to read more about St. Pete’s ordinance, click here . Alachua County
passed an ordinance establishing source of income as a protected class in April of 2019. Flagler
County is also considering adding source of income, domestic violence victims and criminal
history to its list of protected classes. If you would like to read the draft ordinance, click here.
This limits the ability of apartment owners to use criminal history data as a means to screen
applicants and ultimately mitigate risk to ensure the safety of residents and staff. Given the
recent spread of these protected class ordinances across the state, the SCAA members should
be on the lookout for potential proposals in SCAA territory in the future..
SCAA Update


In light of the holidays fast approaching, we have not seen a tremendous amount of local policy
making activity in the Space Coast area. However, there are some important developments to
note,including a legislative debate in December, and some opportunities to get the ball rolling on
development incentives.


● State Representative Tyler Sirios will debate State Representative Anna Eskamani in
Rockledge on December 3rd. This debate will be a good chance to hear from the State
Representatives who will be discussing their legislative priorities and how they plan to
address them. It is important to note, Representative Anna Eskamani is a strong
proponent of rent control. She has introduced rent control legislation in both 2019 and
2020’s legislative session.
● It looks like there is a strong opportunity to speak about the importance of affordable
housing incentives with the city councilmembers of Cape Canaveral. In their upcoming
city council meeting on November 19th, there will be a discussion regarding affordable
housing and some of the councilmembers are eager to hear ideas that may promote
affordable housing in the area. I will report updates to SCAA following the meeting. I
also plan to meet with these city councilmembers to discuss affordable housing
incentives in the near future.


FAA’s 2020 Legislative Priorities


In other advocacy news, the Florida Apartment Association has formalized its legislative
priorities for the 2020 legislative session. The three priorities include protecting the Sadowski
Affordable Housing Trust Fund, reducing emotional support animal fraud and abuse, and
clarifying ride radio system requirements. These priorities were established by FAA members at
the Legislative Platform Meeting held in October during the 2019 FAA Annual Conference &
Trade Show.
Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund
The Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund is a fund dedicated to providing money to build
and repair affordable apartment homes for Florida’s most vulnerable populations. The fund is
financed by document stamp taxes that are paid on all real estate transactions that take place in
the state. Unfortunately, the state Legislature has diverted some of the money in the fund to
other areas of the state’s budget in recent years. Therefore, FAA has made it a priority to fight
for the protection of this fund, and prohibit the Legislature from removing money for the general
budget.


Emotional Support Animal Fraud


Emotional support animals, also known as ESAs or companion animals, are used by patients to
alleviate symptoms associated with a variety of disabilities. Unlike a service animal that is
trained to perform a specific task, an ESA’s presence provides a benefit for the patient. In
response to the growing use of ESAs, unqualified providers have established websites that offer
false ESA “documentation” for a fee. These online providers do not have a license to practice in
the State of Florida and lack an established treatment relationship with the patient.
The apartment industry strongly supports the rights of individuals with disabilities to request
reasonable accommodations. However, the abuse that exists in the current system places an
undue burden on property owners and undermines the intent of the Fair Housing Act. In
response to this, FAA has introduced legislation into this session that will require ESA
accommodation documentation be completed by a Florida licensed provider who has a
relationship with the patient. The documentation completed by the licensed provider must affirm
the individual has a disability or disability related need that is alleviated by the ESA. The bill will
also:


● Clarify a property owners rights to verify the authenticity of such documentation.
● Specify that owner of the ESA is liable for any damage done by the ESA.
● Require individuals who request more than one ESA to provide verification from a
licensed provider for each ESA.


Fire Radio System Requirements


Florida Statute 633.202 was amended in 2016 to give local governments discretion to regulate
fire radio systems for buildings within their jurisdiction. However, the vague language that is
currently in the statute is creating implementation inconsistencies and unintended
consequences for property owners across the state. The problem is that the current statute
does not articulate any minimum requirements for municipal radio equipment, timelines for
ongoing equipment inspection, or the ability of a municipality to withhold a certificate of
occupancy, which must be obtained prior to residents moving into a newly constructed
apartment community.


FAA will be advocating for state legislators to add parameters in state statute to address these
various ambiguities and protect apartment communities from overregulation at the local level.
The Space Coast Apartment Association has uploaded a detailed description of the fire code
issue to their website. Click here to access the article.


If you have any questions or concerns regarding issues developing around the state or FAA’s
legislative priorities feel free to contact William Jaycox, FAA’s local government affairs manager,
at 407-960-2910 or by email at william@faahq.org .