Saturday, April 30, 2005

Yet another reason why developers don't want to provide affordable housing

The 4th DCA released this opinion on April 20th, holding that, despite a binding agreement to rent 75% of the apartments to low or very low income tenants, the non-profit landowner could only receive available tax exemptions for those units that were actually occupied by low income tenants on January 1 of the tax year. That is, any units that were vacant and between low income tenants would be taxed as though they were market rate units even if the unit had been occupied by a qualified tenant in the past and the landowner was obligated to rent it to a lower income tenant in the future.

There was no allegation that the apartment complex was not meeting its obligation, only that there were some vacancies.

While the court went through some understandable gyrations given the language of the statute, agreement and relevant principles, ultimately the court relied on the doctrine of "strict application" of tax exemptions rather than on the requirement that interpretations follow legislative intent. The extreme result is that instead of the non-profit owner of these units being exempt for taxes on 75% of the units, the owner is subject to property tax liability for any units not so rented.

You can see the result coming: landlords won't sign leases for affordable units that don't provide a requirement for occupancy on January 1. Then the appraisers' will attack that and demand some "proof" that someone was actually there. It's just foolish, and this decision, while intellectually consistent, simply creates absurd results that would not have been contemplated by the Legislature.

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