One of the First Apartment Projects Under Florida’s New Affordable Housing Law Opens

Laguna Gardens has opened, making it one of the first projects to use Florida’s Live Local Act, offering lower rents in what the developer calls attainable luxury housing.

The apartment complex opened this week after breaking ground in Miami Gardens, a municipality on the northern edge of Miami-Dade County, in December 2022.

The project developed by Cymbal DLT is about 13 miles from downtown Miami. With residents already moving in, the 14-acre property offers renters 341 one-, two- and three-bedroom units at 20775 N.W. 17th Ave., with rents ranging from $2,174 for a one-bedroom unit to $3,400 for three bedrooms, according to Laguna Gardens’ website.

Similar high-end apartments across Miami-Dade County typically start at $2,500 for a one-bedroom unit, while a three-bedroom apartment exceeds $3,750, Costar data shows.

The project is one of the first in Florida to have “artificially lower” rents thanks to the tax incentives provided by the Live Local Act, Asi Cymbal, chairman of Cymbal DLT, said in an interview with CoStar News at the apartment complex’s grand opening. But unlike many of the projects proposed under the recently amended law that aim to make use of density bonuses that has cities and counties dragging their feet, Laguna Gardens was already being built before the original 2023 law, designed to help spur development and lower housing costs, entered the conversation.

“We did not underwrite this project with Live Local in mind, but it works fabulously,” said Cymbal, adding that “it’s a very simple formula. You reduce your rent and you get a massive tax break. It’s a win-win” for residents and areas across South Florida and the rest of the state, where housing prices — both rental and for-sale — remain elevated after several years of rapid population growth.

Asi Cymbal, chairman of Cymbal DLT, applied the Live Local Act to all 341 units at Laguna Gardens, providing cheaper rents. (Joshua S. Andino/CoStar News)

The Live Local Act, originally passed in 2023 before being amended earlier this month, requires developers to set aside a minimum of 40% of their units as dedicated “affordable” housing, that should cost no more than a third of up to 120% of the area’s median income. In Miami-Dade County, that number is $79,400.

Projects proposed under the act have been met with local resistance due to height and density concerns. “The controversy … relates to density in areas that are not close to the urban core,” Cymbal told CoStar News.

Laguna Gardens avoided those issues by not doing “anything other than what was required by the local municipality” to build the project, Cymbal said. The affordable housing law “could be best applied toward projects like this, where you don’t necessarily need density bonuses, although they can help,” he said.

When the law originally passed, Cymbal and his team refrained from redesigning the property, opting instead to apply the law to all of the project’s units as opposed to just 40%. Cymbal told CoStar News in an earlier interview that the decision was driven by the company’s philosophy of developing attainable luxury housing.

The bet seems to have paid off with Cymbal telling CoStar News that the team has executed 50 leases at Laguna Gardens in the past month with a total of 153 leases. A typical project without the benefits would see about “half that number,” he said.

The apartment complex, located on the northern periphery of Miami-Dade County, is about 30 minutes from both downtown Miami and Fort Lauderdale with easy access to Florida’s Turnpike and Interstate 95. Its 10 apartment buildings are joined by a clubhouse, fitness center, game room, lap pool, a children’s playground, as well as meditation garden and coworking lounge.

Miami Gardens Mayor Rodney Harris, speaking at the grand opening, alluded to potential future projects with Cymbal DLT.

“We look forward to doing more projects with you guys in the future, and working closely with you to ensure that residents know not only Laguna Gardens, but the city, cares about them,” Harris said.

Story updated May 24 to clarify the number of executed leases.

By Joshua S. Andino
CoStar News
Original post: https://product.costar.com/home/news/shared/1944592726