May 20

What You Need To Know About CDDs In Florida

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Are you an empty nester or part of the baby boomer generation considering a move and curious about the benefits of community living?

Have you come across the term "Community Development Districts" or "CDDs" in your research and wondered what it means?

I wrote this guide to help you understand why it might be a crucial factor in your next real estate decision.

Community Development Districts (CDDs), while commonplace in Florida, may be less familiar to those living in other parts of the US.

However, their unique benefits are making them increasingly popular among retirees and those seeking a sense of community, convenience, and well-maintained amenities.

In this article, we'll dive into the world of CDDs in Florida, exploring their origin, growth, and how they function.

More importantly, I'll discuss why they might be an excellent fit for empty nesters and baby boomers looking for their next home. 

What are Community Development Districts (CDDs)?

As you embark on this exciting phase of your life, understanding the various living arrangements available is crucial.

One option that may emerge in your search is CDDs.

But what exactly is a CDD?

Community Development Districts are a type of local, special-purpose government framework, authorized by Florida statute, to manage and finance the infrastructure of planned communities.

CDDs are established as independent entities by developers to build and maintain community infrastructure such as roads, utilities, and amenities like parks, pools, and clubhouses.

While the concept originated in Florida, it is gradually being embraced in other regions as well.

In essence, CDDs are designed to offer residents a comprehensive package of services and amenities, funded by homeowners within the district, that can greatly enhance the lifestyle and community experience for mature adults, retirees, or those simply seeking a change in their living environment.

In other words, the idea behind CDDs is to transfer the financial responsibility of infrastructure development and maintenance from the developer to the homeowners.

The Origin and Growth of CDDs in Florida

The birth of CDDs traces back to Florida in the mid-1980s (seems like such a looong time ago).

The state was experiencing rapid population growth, and the demand for residential communities with comprehensive amenities was on the rise.

However, the financial burden and responsibility of creating and maintaining such communities were becoming increasingly challenging for local municipalities.

In response to this predicament, the Florida legislature enacted Chapter 190 of the Florida Statutes, creating a legal and administrative framework for establishing CDDs.

These districts allowed developers to finance, build, and maintain community infrastructure and amenities through a tax-exempt bond issued by the CDD.

The cost of these amenities is then passed on to homeowners in the form of annual assessments.

Over the years, the CDD model has proven to be successful and efficient, with hundreds of such districts currently operational in Florida.

The advantages offered by CDDs, which we will explore in the next section, have made them increasingly attractive to those in their post-career phase or for individuals seeking a strong sense of community and convenience in their living arrangements.

Advantages of Living in a CDD Community

Now that we've covered what a Community Development District is, you might be curious about the benefits it holds for homeowners, especially for empty nesters and/or retirees.

Living in a CDD comes with a host of advantages that can significantly enhance the quality of life.

Recreational Facilities and Amenities

Recreation and Amenities Funded By CDDs

One of the most appealing aspects is the high standard of amenities and community features, which typically include parks, swimming pools, clubhouses, and sometimes even golf courses or fitness centers.

All these amenities are maintained by the CDD, ensuring they are well kept and readily available for residents' enjoyment.

Moreover, CDDs are often designed with a strong sense of community in mind.

Regular community events, neighborhood clubs, and shared public spaces encourage social interaction, fostering a close-knit and supportive environment that can be particularly appealing to those seeking a community-oriented lifestyle in their later years.

Infrastructure Maintenance

Infrastructure, such as roads, street lights, and utilities, is another crucial aspect managed by CDDs.

This ensures that these essential services are maintained to a high standard, adding to the overall appeal of these districts for residents.

Landscaping and Common Area Maintenance

Landscape Maintenance CDD

CDDs often allocate funds for landscaping services, maintaining parks, green spaces, community gardens, and other common areas within the community.

Water Management and Utilities

CDD fees may cover the costs associated with managing water resources, drainage systems, irrigation systems, and other utility services specific to the community.

Security and Safety Measures

Security Access Provided by CDD

Some CDDs invest in security services, such as gated entrances, surveillance systems, or private patrols, to enhance the safety and well-being of residents.

Debt Service Payments

If the CDD has issued bonds to finance the initial development or infrastructure projects, a portion of the fees may go towards repaying these debts over time.

The Financial Implications of Living in a CDD

While the benefits of residing in a Community Development District can be compelling, it's equally important to understand the financial implications associated with this choice.

As the saying goes, "There's no such thing as a free lunch," and the same applies to the advantages offered by CDDs.

As a homeowner in a CDD, you are required to pay CDD fees, which are annual assessments composed of two parts:

  1. the principal, which pays down the community’s development debt, and
  2. the operation and maintenance portion, which covers the cost of running and upkeeping the amenities and infrastructure.

These fees are over and above your regular property taxes and homeowner's insurance, and they can significantly impact the overall cost of living in such a community.

The exact amount can vary widely depending on the specific amenities and services offered in your CDD, the size and value of your home, and the remaining balance of the community’s development debt.

While CDD fees might seem like an added financial burden, it's essential to consider the value they provide.

The amenities and services covered by these fees could lead to potential savings in other areas – for instance, you might not need a separate gym membership, or you might save on entertainment expenses thanks to community events.

Is There A Difference Between CDDs, HOA's and Co-Ops?

As you explore your living options for this exciting new chapter in your life, you'll likely come across various types of communities.

Each one has its unique structure and offerings, making it essential to understand the differences and similarities.

Let's see how CDD's in Florida stack up against other community types, like Homeowners Associations (HOAs) and Condominium Associations.

HOAs are probably the most common comparison to CDDs. Similar to a CDD, an HOA is a governing body that enforces rules and manages amenities within a community.

However, there are some key differences.

What's the difference between CDDs and HOAs?

  • Firstly, while both CDD fees and HOA dues are used to maintain community amenities, CDD fees also go towards paying off the community’s development debt. This isn't the case with HOA dues.
  • Secondly, CDDs have governmental authority, giving them the power to issue tax-exempt bonds to finance community infrastructure, a power that HOAs do not possess.
  • Lastly, CDD fees are usually tied to property taxes (paid as a separate line item on your property tax bill), while HOA dues are not.

Condominium Associations are similar to HOAs but are specifically for condominium communities.

They manage and maintain the common areas of the condominium complex.

However, compared to CDDs, they typically offer fewer amenities and have less communal land and infrastructure to manage.

Can Communities Have Both CDD and HOA Fees?

Yes, it's indeed possible, and actually quite common, for communities to have both CDD and HOA fees.

Here's how it works:

The Community Development District is responsible for the larger infrastructure elements of the community, such as roads, utilities, and larger amenities like community pools or parks. 

The CDD fees cover the cost of constructing, maintaining, and improving these elements.

On the other hand, a Homeowners Association typically manages the more specific or localized aspects of the community.

This could include landscaping for common areas, enforcing community rules and standards, or managing smaller amenities like a neighborhood playground.

So, in communities where both a CDD and HOA exist, homeowners would pay fees to both entities. 

While this might initially seem like a financial burden, remember that these fees go towards maintaining and enhancing the community, which can contribute to a higher quality of life and potentially increase property values over time.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a CDD Community

Choosing to live in a Community Development District can offer many advantages, but it's a decision that should be carefully considered.

There are several factors that you, as an empty nester or baby boomer, should keep in mind when evaluating whether a CDD is the right fit for you.

Financial Commitment

Understand the financial obligations that come with living in a CDD.

This includes not only the annual CDD fees but also how those fees might increase over time.

It's important to assess whether these costs align with your financial planning.

Amenities and Services

Assess the amenities and services offered by the CDD.

Are they facilities and services you will use regularly? 

Do they enhance your lifestyle and meet your needs?

Community Lifestyle

Consider the lifestyle offered by the CDD.

Does it align with your vision for your next chapter in life?

CDDs often have a strong community focus, which can be a major draw for those seeking a social and interactive lifestyle.

Location

As with any real estate decision, location is key.

Is the community located near essential services like healthcare facilities, shopping centers, and entertainment options?

Is it in a region you find appealing and comfortable?

Management and Governance

Look into how the CDD is managed.

Are the residents satisfied with the way the community is run?

A well-managed CDD can significantly enhance your living experience.

Why CDDs Might Be An Attractive Option for Retirees?

As you transition into a new phase of life, the idea of a managed, well-organized community that offers ample amenities and a strong sense of community may be particularly appealing.

CDDs can provide these benefits and more, making them an attractive option for mature adults and retirees.

Here's why:

  1. Maintenance-Free Living: CDDs take care of community infrastructure and amenity maintenance, freeing you from the worry and effort of upkeep. This allows you to focus on enjoying your retirement years.
  2. Amenities at Your Doorstep: The wide range of amenities typically available in CDDs, such as clubhouses, pools, fitness centers, and parks, can significantly enhance your lifestyle. You have easy access to facilities for exercise, relaxation, and entertainment without needing to travel far.
  3. Community Spirit: CDDs often foster a strong sense of community, with regular events and shared public spaces encouraging interaction among residents. This can help create a supportive and social environment, which many find rewarding in their later years.
  4. Financial Predictability: While CDD fees are an added expense, they are also predictable, typically changing only modestly from year to year. This can make budgeting and financial planning easier.

Of course, every individual's needs and preferences are different, and what works for one person might not work for another.

It's essential to consider your personal circumstances, financial situation, and lifestyle preferences when deciding if living in a CDD is the right choice for you.

Other FAQ's About CDDs in Florida

What is the process of selling a house in a CDD?

The process is similar to selling a house in any other location. However, sellers must disclose the existence of the CDD and its associated fees to potential buyers.

Are CDD fees negotiable during the home buying process?

CDD fees are typically not negotiable as they are set by the CDD's board and are tied to the property, not the owner. However, in some cases, a seller might agree to pay some or all of a buyer's first year CDD fees as part of the sales agreement.

Do CDDs go away?

Community Development Districts (CDDs) are established as independent special-purpose units of local government. They are intended to last indefinitely, as they are responsible for the long-term operation and maintenance of community infrastructure.

However, the fees associated with a CDD, which are used to repay the initial infrastructure development costs, are typically structured over a fixed period (often 20-30 years). Once the infrastructure development costs are fully paid off, that portion of the CDD fees should cease. However, the portion of the fees used for ongoing maintenance and operation of the CDD's facilities and services will continue.

While it's theoretically possible for a CDD to be dissolved, it's not common. Dissolving a CDD would typically require legislative action and a plan for who would take over the responsibilities of the CDD, such as maintaining the community's infrastructure. In general, a homeowner should anticipate the CDD and related ongoing maintenance fees to be a permanent part of living in that community.

What happens if I don't pay my CDD fees?

Non-payment of CDD fees could result in a lien on your property, similar to not paying property taxes, and could potentially lead to foreclosure.

How do CDD fees impact property values?

CDD fees help maintain and enhance community amenities and infrastructure, which can contribute to maintaining or increasing property values. However, higher fees could potentially deter some buyers.

Can I be a part of the CDD board as a homeowner?

Yes, homeowners within a CDD are typically eligible to run for a position on the board of supervisors.

How can homeowners influence the decisions of the CDD board?

Homeowners can attend board meetings, voice their opinions, and vote in board elections. Some boards may also have committees where homeowners can participate more directly.

How does living in a CDD affect my home insurance?

Living in a CDD generally does not directly affect home insurance. However, the well-maintained infrastructure and amenities in a CDD could potentially lead to a safer environment and lower insurance rates.

Can CDD fees increase over time?

CDD fees can increase to cover rising costs of maintenance, to fund new projects, or to cover unexpected expenses. Any changes to the fees are typically decided by the CDD's board.

What are the consequences of a CDD defaulting on its bonds?

If a CDD defaults on its bonds, it could lead to financial instability for the district, potential increases in CDD fees, and could potentially impact property values within the district.

Conclusion

As you enter this exciting new phase of life, choosing the right community to call home is crucial.

CDDs in Florida offer a unique blend of community-oriented living, robust amenities, and well-managed infrastructure that many mature adults and retirees find appealing.

Whether it's the opportunity to enjoy a variety of amenities right at your doorstep, the ease of a maintenance-free lifestyle, or the allure of a close-knit community, CDDs offer numerous benefits.

However, they also come with financial commitments that should be carefully considered.

While CDDs originated in Florida, the model is gradually being adopted in other regions, expanding the options available to you.

As with any major decision, it's important to do thorough research, consider your personal preferences and financial situation, and consult with real estate professionals or legal advisors as needed.

Finding the right community can greatly enhance your quality of life, making the golden years truly shine.

Here's to finding the perfect fit for your next chapter!


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