New legislation channels tourist taxes to support affordable housing in Key West

by | Jun 3, 2024

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed Senate Bill 1456 into law on Friday, allowing surplus tourist taxes to be used for affordable housing in the Florida Keys and Key West.

Legislation signed into law on Friday by Gov. Ron DeSantis introduces new measures for the use of tourist development and impact taxes to support affordable housing in the Florida Keys and the City of Key West.

The bill, Senate Bill 1456, stipulates that counties designated as areas of critical state concern can use accumulated surplus funds from the taxes for affordable housing, with the purpose of helping tourism sector employees find housing in high-cost areas like the Keys.

The accumulated surplus refers to excess revenue from tourist taxes not allocated for any specific purpose. Counties can use up to $35 million of this surplus for housing projects, with expenditure subject to approval by a majority vote of the county’s board of commissioners.

The housing must be available to employees of private sector tourism-related businesses and remain affordable for at least 99 years.

The bill additionally introduces exemptions to the State Housing Initiatives Partnership (SHIP) program for counties or municipalities designated as areas of critical state concern within the past five years. Typically, the SHIP program requires that at least 30 percent of the funds deposited into the local housing assistance trust fund be reserved for very-low-income persons and another 30 percent for low-income persons.

In Florida, very-low-income persons earn up to 50 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI), while low-income persons earn between 50.01 percent and 80 percent of the AMI. However, under the new law, areas of critical state concern are exempt from these requirements, providing them with greater flexibility in allocating SHIP funds.

The Florida Keys were designated as an area of critical state concern in 1975, covering the municipalities of Islamorada, Marathon, Layton, and Key Colony Beach, as well as the unincorporated areas of Monroe County.

Beyond the use of tourist taxes, the bill updates local comprehensive plan requirements by clarifying that mobile home residents are not considered permanent residents for determining hurricane evacuation clearance times.

It also mandates that the City of Key West be included in the state’s hurricane evacuation study and comply with the 24-hour evacuation requirements.

Additionally, the bill grants land authorities the ability to enforce income limitations on land conveyed for affordable housing by recording the original funding or contribution in a perpetual deed restriction. If a purchase involves state or federal funding necessitating a priority lien position, the land authority’s contribution can be subordinated to a first purchase money mortgage and the state or federal funding lien.


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