Jeff Brandes’ think tank: Live Local Bill will help, but bigger changes needed to fix affordable housing crisis

by | Jun 7, 2023

  • A recent data analysis reveals that Florida’s affordable housing crisis is largely attributed to the state’s current zoning framework, which restricts the organic growth and adaptation of communities to changing housing demands.
  • The report suggests that without adapting zoning laws to modern housing needs, the housing crisis will persist, despite recent reforms and the Live Local Bill signed into law earlier this year.
  • “Upzoning” is recommended as a potential solution, allowing for increased residential density as neighborhoods evolve, potentially creating hundreds of thousands of new housing units. Policymakers need to reform zoning policies to address the crisis effectively.
  • Former State Senator Jeff Brandes says his group will put forward more policy recommendations and implementation strategies in the coming weeks. 

A deep-dive data analysis of Florida’s ongoing affordable housing crisis, issued jointly this week by the Florida Policy Project, founded by former Republican State Senator Jeff Brandes, in cooperation with Florida State University’s DeVoe Policy Center, found that the state’s current zoning framework significantly contributes to the state’s affordable housing crisis by restricting the organic growth and adaptation of communities to changing housing demands.

With the state’s residents grappling with high housing costs, inflation, stagnant incomes and a shortage of affordable homes, the report suggests that despite recent reforms, problem will continue unabated unless the state’s zoning laws are adapted to modern housing needs.

The report highlights “upzoning” as a potential solution, a practice that allows residential density to increase naturally as neighborhoods evolve to accommodate higher densities. This strategy involves lifting restrictions on housing types and enabling the division of existing parcels, thus potentially allowing for the creation of hundreds of thousands of new housing units.

Overall, the report indicates that to effectively address the housing crisis in Florida, policymakers must reevaluate and reform current zoning policies and work to create a more flexible and responsive housing market.

According to a March 2023 survey conducted by the Public Opinion Research Lab at the University of North Florida, 25% of respondents listed “housing costs” as the biggest problem currently faced by Florida. The issue outpaced other concerns like the economy (17%), education (12%), and immigration (10%).

Data highlighted in the report show a steep increase in median home prices, rising from under $300,000 in 2015 to over $450,000 in 2022. Meanwhile, median household income has dropped from $66,856 in 2019 to $59,734 in 2021. The combination of rising housing costs and falling incomes has pushed homeownership further out of reach for many Floridians.

Earlier this year, Florida lawmakers passed, and Governor Ron DeSantis signed the Live Local Bill, which overhauled the state’s affordable housing programs and bolstered trust funds with hundreds of millions aimed at quickly bringing more affordable housing units onto the Florida market.

But it won’t be enough, according to Brandes, who promises more to come in the next few weeks.

“The housing affordability studies released today outline the why, the ideas and the best practice solutions,” Brandes said. “In the coming weeks, in collaboration with legislative leadership and university partners, we will produce strategies to best implement these practices.”

Brandes is not alone in that assessment, and has support on both sides of the aisle.

“While the Live-Local legislation passed this year represents a significant step forward in mitigating the housing shortage,” said Democrat State Senator Darryl Rouson, “there is still more work to be done.”

The report suggested that local regulations, particularly zoning, and changes in housing needs, driven by declining birth rates and shifting family dynamics, have impacted the housing market’s ability to respond to demand. Additionally, Florida’s population growth, fueled by remote workers relocating from denser urban areas, has increased demand, while supply has struggled to keep pace.

The Florida Policy Project report also criticized the state’s zoning framework, stating that current laws restrict the organic growth of cities and prevent flexible adaptation to changing housing needs. It cited the case of Orlando, where complex residential zoning codes limit flexibility and stifle development.

While the recently signed Live Local Act provides some relief, it only addresses a small portion of the affordable housing crisis, according to the report.

As potential solutions, the report suggests implementing best practices such as upzoning to organically increase residential density, echoing strategies taken by other states and cities grappling with similar challenges.

In a press release accompanying the report, Brandes pointed to the “urgent need for intelligent, data-driven research,” and urged both the general public and elected officials to review the available data before voting on crucial legislation that could impact housing in Florida.


  1. MH/Duuuval

    Brandes was an atypical GOP member of the 21st-century Florida Legislature: thoughtful and independent. What he is putting forward makes sense, but the entrenched interests like things as they are and oppose increased density in their neighborhood.

    • Missy

      Do you want a high-density apartment built next to your SFH? I don’t.

      • MH/Duuuval

        The middle path may be building more density in and around downtown areas, many of which continue to struggle, and along major transportation arteries. Another possibility is to limit SFH building, which is the basis for sprawl.

  2. Deborah Coffey

    “Meanwhile, median household income has dropped from $66,856 in 2019 to $59,734 in 2021. The combination of rising housing costs and falling incomes has pushed homeownership further out of reach for many Floridians.” This statement is not substantiated by other websites…which said the median household income ROSE from 2019 to 2021…quite handily in fact.

    • MH/Duuuval

      Has inflation been factored in?

      • Deborah Coffey

        Inflation has nothing to do with a person’s INCOME. Stick with facts. Econ. 101.

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