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Winter Park Opts Out of Live Local Act Tax Break

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Winter Park commissioners unanimously voted to opt out of a tax break benefit to the state’s Live Local Act that would have impacted the city budget.

Adopted by the state legislature in 2023, the Live Local Act provides funding and incentive programs for developers of housing for low-to-moderate income families. One benefit that city staff were previously unaware of is an ad valorem tax exemption for apartment complexes that set aside 40% of their units for affordable or workforce housing.

Planning Director Emeritus Jeff Briggs told commissioners at their July 10 meeting that staff had been alerted to the exemption by the city of Maitland, which recently received exemption applications from two if its apartment complexes. Briggs noted two Ravaudage apartment complexes that each contribute $325,000 in ad valorem taxes per year. “You have, potentially, a very significant budget impact if one or several (complexes) took advantage of this state provision,” he said.

But an opt out clause, passed earlier this year, allows cities to avoid the tax exemption if there are more available units than qualifying families in the area. The 2023 annual report by the University of Florida’s Shimberg Center for Housing Studies found that Orange, Osceola, Lake, and Seminole counties can qualify for the opt-out.

Mayor Sheila DeCiccio noted that one of the problems Maitland has encountered is the inability to verify whether apartment units meet the necessary affordable housing criteria. “They can’t get any information because it’s confidential,” she said.

“The property appraiser sees that information,” said City Manager Randy Knight. “It’s exempt from public record, so as a taxing entity we don’t have the right to look at it and challenge it.”

Winter Park is currently the first city to vote for the opt out, Maitland is expected to follow suit. The opt out does not affect the other benefits of the Live Local Act.

Briggs said the tax benefit is extended to current complexes and to those built within the next five years. Currently, Rollins College has its own workforce housing project in the pipeline that has undergone several revisions over design and parking issues. At the most recent hearing, Planning & Zoning Board member Bill Segal proposed a condition where, in the event the Rollins workforce housing property, located across from the Douglas Grand, is granted ad valorem tax exemption by the state, it should pay a portion of the city taxes for police and fire service. When asked if the July 10 commission vote will have any impact on plans moving forward, Rollins College Vice President of Communications and External Relations Sam Stark said there would be no impact on the proposal.

The next hearing for the Rollins College workforce housing plan is scheduled for the Planning & Zoning Board meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 6. The next City Commission meeting will be held on Wednesday, July 24. Meeting agendas, recordings, and virtual access registration are available at cityofwinterpark.org/meetings.

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