by Mike Vogel
Only Gainesville in Florida contemplates a city-wide elimination of the single-family zoning category, but a trend toward loosening other land-use regulations is growing. At the state level, the Legislature in 2020 mandated that affordable housing can be built in zoning categories including single-family, commercial and industrial.
- St. Petersburg is said to be the first Florida city to have a project being developed under the looser regulations. Even earlier, in 2004, the Legislature passed a measure to encourage — but not mandate — cities and counties to allow on single-family lots new accessory-dwelling units, usually called granny flats, cottages or backyard units.
- This year, DeLand in Volusia County eased land-use regulations on accessory units and also reduced the minimum square footage for a house and allowed more homes in the downtown commercial district — all to encourage more housing development.
- In Miami-Dade County, Mayor Daniella Levine Cava earlier this year advanced a plan to get more housing developed in less space. “Densification is one way to create opportunity, which will bring down costs,” she said.
- Even limited steps toward greater density can be a tough sell. In 2019 in Miami Beach, City Commissioner Ricky Arriola proposed allowing property owners to build and rent out backyard units. It would help owners pay mortgages and provide affordable housing, he said. What eventually passed allowed only existing units to be rented — allowing no new construction — subject to an annual revenue and inspection, only in the city’s Mid Beach area and only if the main house was owner-occupied and was the property owner’s principal — or homestead — residence. Arriola believes the restrictions explain why no one’s applied to do it. He says cities need to have the “guts and compassion” to allow “slightly more dense” development. “If we really wanted to do something, we could solve the problem yesterday. It has a solution. It’s where do you put it? Well, ‘not in my neighborhood.’ ”