Miami City Hall

Miami commissioners challenged a plan created to help solve the city’s affordable housing dilemma.

In the hot seat was the affordable housing master plan created by Florida International University's Jorge M. Perez Metropolitan Center.

City Commissioners Joe Carollo, Manolo Reyes and Alex Diaz de la Portilla went back and forth with each other, and the two makers of the affordable housing master plan, Ned Murray and Kevin Greiner about the plan’s accuracy for hours.

Prior to adopting the plan on Jan. 31, city commissioners amended it. Then, after a public hearing, they later moved to adopt the plan with a whole lot of conditions that must be satisfied first from proving evidence to how they arrived at their numbers to showing from where charity dollars in the plan will come.

Commissioner Keon Hardemon, who serves as chairman of the meeting, had a time keeping things in order.

Carollo took issue with the plan because of the information contained in the report as well as the cost residents would have to pay to live in the units discussed in the plan. They questioned the $85 million in bonds the city would have to use as seed money for the plan to work.

Commissioners Reyes and Diaz de la Portilla expressed concerns about where the data came from and how it was used to develop the master plan presented.

“We used the data from the U.S. Census Bureau. That was our baseline for developing the master plan,” Murray said.

After reviewing the master plan a bit more carefully, Carollo discovered that city Districts 3 and 5 have the same median household income of $22,760.

“How is that a household in my district, has the same median household income of a person in Commissioner Keon Hardemon of District 5?” Carollo asked both Murray and Greiner.

“Every data source we use is legitimate. While we consider ourselves data experts, we rely on the U.S. Census. That’s not unheard of to have two districts with the same median household income; that’s U.S. Census data at the block group level, not FIU,” Murray said.

Even with the reassurance from Murray, commissioners still had many questions.

“All we have heard from is FIU, the academics. I think it is important that we have a workshop and hear from the people that actually do the work – the developers. We are looking for results, some finality before we make decisions about the plan,” Diaz de la Portilla said.

Commissioner Hardemon wanted residents to share their concerns about the housing master plan. He moved to open the meeting to receive public comments.

Residents and community groups expressed their approval for the master plan in person and online.

"For only $110k you have an excellent plan to start addressing the affordability crisis. Sounds like a good ROI!" Daniel Ciraldo said in a Facebook post.

"In a meeting in the community where 224 attended, we overwhelmingly accepted the master plan," said Reverend Willifred "Wille" Allen-Fiaiella of People Acting for Community Together (PACT) and rector of St. Stephens Episcopal Church.

Hearing that City leaders haven't fully adopted the master plan as-is, some think they are just stalling the vote.

"I wonder if they are trying to discredit the data to buy time or vote it down?" asked Mileyka Burgos-Flores, resident and business owner of Miami.

Annie Lord, executive director of Miami Homes for All, supports the plan and believes it is a great place to start.

“This plan is the best this city has seen so far. It right-sizes scope and scale of the problem, and it stresses solutions that address the need where it lies most: among low-wage workers. If we can do everything in the plan, we will be very far ahead of where we are now,” Lord says.

The City will set a date for another workshop to discuss the affordable housing masterplan. Commissioners will meet beginning this week to over the plan.

Daniella Pierre is a native of Miami, with Caribbean Diaspora roots. She's been an active member of the NAACP for most of her adult life. Her advocacy work in affordable housing and social justice has been featured in various global media outlets.

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