County Commissioner Barbara Jordan has proposed a workforce housing ordinance (Ordinance) which would require developers to provide workforce housing in association with residential development projects within Miami-Dade County (the County) — including within municipalities. The Ordinance would apply to single family, multi-family, and mixed-use residential projects which meet the following threshold criteria:

  • new construction with 20 or more residential units,
  • existing projects with 20 or more residential units undergoing redevelopment that increases net square footage by 50% or more, or
  • existing projects being redeveloped with additions of 20 or more new residential units.

Summary of Basic Requirements. The Ordinance would require qualifying projects to provide at least 10% of the project's total number of dwelling units as Workforce Housing Units (WHUs), which are defined as units affordable to households earning between 60% and 140% of the Area Median Income. In return, qualifying projects would receive a density bonus on a sliding scale of 15% to 25%, proportionate to the number of base units inclusive of required WHUs. Other Ordinance provisions include specific design and location requirements for WHUs and potential flexibility from other typical site development regulations—however, many such provisions may only be explicitly applicable within unincorporated areas of the County. As proposed, the Ordinance requires qualifying projects within incorporated areas of the County to comply with the Ordinance, although provides municipalities with a 90-day period from the Ordinance's effective date to opt-out through adoption of a local ordinance consistent with the minimum requirements set forth in the Ordinance, and subject to approval by the County Commission.

Many aspects related to the implementation of the Ordinance are unclear, such as: vested rights determinations; applicability to projects within municipalities during the 90-day period, as currently proposed, from the Ordinance's effective date to the municipality's opt-out date; the mechanism for continuing to guarantee that the WHUs remain within the targeted limits; and the ability of the County to provide density bonuses in instances where doing so would be inconsistent with the underlying density prescribed through land development regulations, future land use element or charter restrictions in certain municipalities.

Applicability to Municipalities. The Ordinance, as drafted, applies to all municipalities within Miami-Dade County, but does allow for a municipal opt-out in cases where municipalities adopt ordinances addressing the need for workforce housing within their jurisdictions, as demonstrated by "data and analysis." However, the extent to which municipalities may deviate from the standards set forth by the Ordinance in adopting their own ordinances for purposes of opt-out remains unclear.

Alternative Compliance Options. The Ordinance provides alternatives to constructing WHUs within a qualifying project, including payment of a fee-in-lieu (currently estimated to be in the $200,000 per unit range), or constructing the required number of WHUs at alternative sites within a 1-mile radius of the proposed location of the qualifying project.

Skepticism Around the Proposed Ordinance. While there is broad recognition that housing costs have become a significant policy issue in South Florida, the Ordinance in its current form has been received with considerable resistance and questions about its legitimacy and feasibility to achieve desired results. Developers, trade groups, and industry representatives have expressed concern over the mandatory aspect of the Ordinance, as proposed, adding significant cost to construction in a market that has seen considerable market based increases in construction costs; and that the proposed Ordinance would have a severe impact on acquisition and construction financing for residential product, seemingly leading to an increase overall in the cost of housing in Miami-Dade County.

Additionally, a number of municipalities have claimed that the imposition of mandatory requirements from the County into the planning and zoning jurisdiction of municipalities crosses a line that presents legal and practical challenges with implementation. The Miami-Dade County League of Cities (League of Cities) has proposed revisions to the Ordinance which would allow, in part, municipalities to opt-out based upon their own legislative findings, extension of the opt-out grace period from 90 days to 6 months, assurance that municipalities will not be required to amend or violate their comprehensive plans (or charters or land development regulations), and exemption of municipalities with a population less than 10,000. Although Commissioner Jordan appears amenable to many of the concepts underlying the League of Cities' proposed Ordinance revisions, the scope and language of the revisions are still under consideration. The League of Cities voted on September 1st to continue dialogue with the County in an effort to reach a consensus prior to the Ordinance's next hearing.

Timeline. The County Commission passed the Ordinance on first reading on June 7th. It is currently scheduled for public hearing before the County's Economic Prosperity Committee on October 13th. If approved at committee level, the Ordinance will go back to the County Commission for at least one additional public hearing for final consideration and adoption.