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Vacant shopping centers could be key to solving Florida's housing problems

Lawmakers are searching for solutions to Florida's housing crunch.
Vacant Lot
Posted at 4:39 PM, Dec 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-28 21:38:39-05

Could boarded-up windows and empty storefronts be a solution to Florida’s affordable housing crunch?

“I think it’s a great idea,” said Joe Trachtenberg, Chairman of the Collier County Affordable Housing Advisory Committee.

“I think there are really advantages in using property that’s already been built on because the infrastructure already exists. It’s not like starting with raw land.”

In June 2020, the state enacted a new law that streamlined the complicated process of rezoning commercial and industrial space into residential.

But to date, only one such project has been approved.

St. Petersburg city leaders approved a project to convert a former lumberyard into 264 affordable housing apartments.

Senate President Kathleen Passidomo of Naples says the legislature will look for ways to further incentivize local governments to allow this type of rezoning in the spring legislative session.

“Somebody who graduates from law school, who goes to work for the state attorney’s office, their starting salary is $75,000 a year. They can’t afford to live in Miami. They can’t. They can’t afford to live in Naples,” Passidomo said.

Trachtenberg says his organization has encouraged the county board of commissioners to allow rezoning without a public hearing.

However, an ordinance to allow that to happen hasn’t been passed by the board.

“The problem is there are a lot of people in Collier County that haven't accepted the fact that affordable housing, or lack of affordable housing, is in a crisis stage,” Trachtenberg said.

According to housing analysis firm Apartment List, Florida has the highest rate of rental unaffordability in the country.