Winter Park becomes 1st Central Florida city to partially opt out of affordable housing law

WINTER PARK, Fla. — Winter Park leaders became the first in Central Florida to vote to opt out of a part of the Live Local Act Wednesday in a move expected to be quickly copied by other governments seeking to preserve their budgets.


The unanimous vote will block developers of middle-income housing from getting tax breaks for their apartment complexes until at least 2027.

The Live Local Act was implemented by state lawmakers in 2023 to address Florida’s affordability crisis. Among other benefits, it allowed qualifying large-scale developers to claim a 75% tax break on units housing families that made between 80% and 120% of the area median income (AMI), or $77,200 to $115,800 for a family of four in Orange County.

This year, a tweak in the law allowed municipalities to opt out of that tax break if the metro area had more units than qualifying families. However, other benefits, such as fewer hurdles for approval, would stand.

A study by the University of Florida’s Shimberg Center for Housing Studies found the Orlando area has 799 more units in the 80% to 120% range than families making that amount of money, opening the door for governments in Orange, Osceola, Lake and Seminole counties to exercise the law’s new provision.

Read: Affordable housing available to those with behavioral health diagnoses in Osceola County

Neighboring Maitland was the first to ring the alarm bell. Leaders there said two major apartment complexes built within the last five years claimed the tax break, placing a 3% hole in the city’s budget.

Winter Park leaders said apartment complexes were several of their biggest taxpayers, generating an average of $325,000 in revenue per complex this year. They said they needed to take the vote to protect their budget.

“We have to. We have to,” Mayor Sheila DeCiccio said, waving a newspaper article about Maitland’s situation next to her head.

The vote does not affect lower-income housing, or the breaks offered to those developments. The same study found the Orlando metro area is short approximately 380,000 apartment units for individuals making up to $54,050, or up to $77,200 for a family of four.

Read: ‘Our biggest need’: New affordable housing complex in the works for Orlando; see who qualifies

Those developments can receive as much as a 100% tax break for their qualifying units.

Maitland is also expected to take a vote to block more tax breaks soon, as are other municipalities.

The Shimberg Center study also found that cities in Sumter, Marion, and Brevard counties have more middle-income housing than needed, meaning those governments could also take votes to block that portion of the law.

Read: 100 affordable apartments going up in Orlando’s Parramore community

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