Oviedo mayor: Duplex, fewer rules could alleviate the housing crisis

Rent caps and special fees for out-of-town buyers are ideas that carry far too many problems to be viable options. Instead of talking about regulations the government could add to alleviate the housing crisis, it would be far more productive to talk about regulations it could remove to make things better.

Either local governments or the state legislature could immediately unlock the potential for about 150,000 more homes to be created across Orange and Seminole counties without anyone adding any buildings or spending a dime of taxpayer money. All they have to do is agree to regulate areas that are currently single-family zoned based solely on appearance and functionality rather than how many families can occupy a single structure. This would make it legal for people to convert their homes into duplexes if they wanted to.

All HOA rules would still be in place, so it is unlikely that anything would change in these subdivisions. But owners in other neighborhoods will then be free to consider converting their extra space into additional homes. Since the developer would not have to purchase land and would only need to remodel an existing structure, the cost to create this home would be much less than a newly built unit, and presumably the rent charged would be more affordable.

It doesn’t matter if your politics lean left or right, this idea ticks all the boxes. Conservatives can support it because it’s pro-property rights, pro-individual liberty, and it takes no tax dollars to implement. Liberals can support it because it creates tremendous potential to create affordable housing opportunities, and it creates fairer living opportunities for people at all income levels.

Environmentalists can get behind it because it allows for much-needed housing without adding rooftops or runoff. Business owners may be excited about the idea because it will allow neighborhoods to thicken with more customers to support them.

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Local governments will get more property tax revenue because homes converted to duplexes will have a slightly higher taxable value, and state government will get more sales tax revenue because people will spend less on housing and have more discretionary income to buy other goods and services .

The only concern with additional density that cannot be addressed by regulating anything other than the number of families living on a piece of land is that it will result in people who are less affluent gaining access to neighborhoods that previously were off limits. I hope we can all agree that this is an elitist objection and that the government should have no role in defending an archaic zoning policy that serves no other purpose than to separate people by wealth level.

It would be 100% the property owner’s choice whether to keep an existing home configured for one family or to work with the building department to add additional units in that space. All other regulations would still apply – setbacks, building height, parking regulations, noise ordinances and state building codes. The only rule that would change is the one that makes it illegal for more than one family to live there.

Here’s another idea: revisit current laws at the local level that prohibit more than three unrelated people from living together in single-family areas. Even raising the cap to up to four people would cut costs for roommates sharing a house by nearly 25% each. This one code change could bring the fastest relief of all.

So what’s the next step? If local governments won’t act, then the state legislature should. There is no justification for any level of government to support exclusionary single-family zoning outside of an HOA setting where the parties negotiated privately to secure those rights. The government should support the freedom to choose who you join, and if you want to convert your home into a duplex, it shouldn’t prohibit you from doing so solely because of concerns about how new residents might change the makeup of the neighborhood .

With 67 counties and over 400 cities—all with their own zoning codes—this may be a situation where state-level action is the most practical approach.

Megan Sladek is the mayor of Oviedo and a local attorney and real estate agent. She is also the founder of The Oviedo Preservation Project, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving Oviedo.

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