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December 15, 2006

Community Development Alert

Broward County Property Appraiser
Goes to War Against Nonprofits.

Lori Parrish, the Broward County Tax Appraiser, has gone to war against nonprofits that are trying to develop affordable housing. She is systematically revoking property tax exemptions for of vacant parcels being developed as affordable housing. 

Ms. Parrish is using very strict and narrow interpretation of the the Florida law governing exemptions.  Her position is that vacant land that is in the process of being developed to house low income people can never be exempt and thus should being required to pay the maximum tax calculated upon fair market values as determined in an environment of sky rocketing real estate prices.

Florida law on affordable housing property tax exemptions is poorly written. In 1999 the State legislature created an "affordable housing" safe harbor under the more general "charitable use" category.  The new safe harbor was not intended to replace the more general charitable use category for affordable housing but only to clarify that certain occupied rental units were indeed qualified for the exemption.  Ms. Parrish seems to be misinterpreting the law by not even considering the possibility that affordable housing that does not qualify for the safe harbor could still qualify as "charitable use" property under the law.

Ms. Parish has affirmatively revoked pre-existing exemptions.  Most of the affected parcels are targeted for the development of housing for the low income people using government subsidy programs to make them affordable.  Because of the huge tax consequences on the denial of the exemptions it is probable that a number of the these projects will no longer be economically feasible.