The Osceola County School Board canceled a vote Tuesday night on the county’s request to slash impact fees for studio apartments by 95 percent.
Osceola’s $11,362-per apartment impact fee rate is the highest in the Florida. The county’s Community Development Department provided an alternative study that recommended lowering the fee for zero-bedroom multifamily units to $552, but Superintendent Debra Pace had recommended against changing the fee schedule and instead launching a new rate study in 2020 -- a year ahead of schedule.
A day before the meeting, Assistant Community Development Administrator Susan Caswell asked Pace to remove the item from the agenda. Caswell told GrowthSpotter multifamily developers can still request the alternative fee based on the county’s study, even if the school board doesn’t change its rate schedule.
“They don’t have to amend the ordinance to incorporate the studio fee, because the current ordinance has provisions for applying for an alternative fee,” she said. “Applicants with zero-bedroom apartments can apply at any time, and the ordinances contains a process for reviewing such applications.”
Osceola School Spokeswoman Dana Schafer said the district had "also identified issues that we need to thoroughly address when we do a complete impact fee review in 2020.”
Last week, the Apartment Association of Greater Orlando (AAGO) weighed in on the matter, urging the school board to accept the alternative study.
“As an affordable product type, smaller zero-bedroom housing units can address and service this need. Including, for example, through the conversion of vacant or under-utilized motels on W192 to provide affordable housing for tourist sector workers," AAGO President Chip Tatum wrote. "Zero-bedroom units can also serve as an affordable housing option for many school district teachers and staff.”
Steven Ogier, president of multifamily developer ContraVest, spoke in support of the lower fee for studio units. “Lowering the school impact fee for these units will allow our industry to meet the need and demand for this housing product,” he said. “Very few zero-bedroom units are being produced in Osceola County because of the development costs associated with them. The impact fees often exceed the cost of the land.”
Board Chairman Clarence Thacker announced that the item was being pulled from the board’s agenda but offered no explanation.
Tatum and Ogier both said the market demand is strong for smaller, more affordable apartments, but most multifamily developers are only building a handful of zero-bedroom units, if any. Fore Property Company isn’t offering any studio apartments among the 384 new units it plans to build at Parkway Crossings, across from the Tupperware SunRail station.
Wendover Housing Partners is building a 200-unit transit-oriented apartment complex a block from the downtown Kissimmee SunRail station. The developer told GrowthSpotter it’s offering eight studios, which rent for $1,000 per month. Weston 4 Hundred will have 73 one-bedroom units and about 90 two-bedroom units. The lower impact fee rate for studios would result in an $86,480 savings.
Park Square Homes, which is planning its first “Neo” branded complex next to Valencia College Osceola Campus in Kissimmee, would have 20 studio apartments among its 350 units. The savings could add up to $216,200, based on the lower rate.