After reading Miami-Dade County’s Annual Report on Infill Housing for calendar years 2017 and 2018, I just shook my head in utter disbelief and disappointment.

The report shows that the bar is set so low when it comes to affordable housing in the county. And if you thought I was outraged before by the lack of action and progress toward housing solutions from our elected officials, I’m fired up now. The lack of safe, decent and affordable place to live is no secret. Even our youth are rising up, talking about the lack of affordable housing.

Infill lots are units of land set aside to increase and maintain the availability of affordable homes in an effort to eliminate blight, dilapidation or abandoned properties. The county’s infill housing program, as it’s structured, seems to be a good initiative for which anyone can apply, not just “phantom developers” and non-profits. However, if you really look a little bit deeper, it appears to mirror an organized “land banking” scheme: holding land or setting it aside for higher purchase to make a bigger profit.

Case in point, back in 2017, Neighbors and Neighbors Association (NANA), headed by Leroy Jones, was handed over 30 lots in District 3. However to date, the only things built are overgrown trees. And, according to the county’s annual report, amended back on Jan. 18, 2018, many of the lots under NANA’s possession are “0 percent completed” and are “not sold” either. Messages and emails to NANA were not answered as of Monday afternoon.

Also listed on the infill housing report is Habitat for Humanity of Greater Miami. It has been regarded by many as a longtime developer of affordable homeownership in our community. So when I surveyed the list and saw vacant lots that were assigned to Habitat in Districts 3 and 9 reporting no activity, I needed to know why. Habitat’s CEO Mario J. Artecona said the guidelines of the County’s Infill program allow 24 months for properties to be developed and sold. Though the program is “well within timeframe parameters” for delivery, it is no stranger to this work or residents’ pressing housing needs. Habitat has “successfully delivered more infill homes than any other developer,” said Artecona.

After developers are given the land from the county, their internal processes should move according to our needs, because families need housing now. All progress up to completion ought to be reflected on the official report and available for review, publicly. The way it’s reported now gives the impression that we don’t have an urgent need for affordable homeownership and that’s not the case. Habitat for Humanity of Greater Miami says it takes “pride in providing truly affordable homeownership,” but is that enough? Not in my book.

Habitat shows a lack of progress in Commissioner Dennis Moss’ District 9, but according to its website, the homebuilder will announce available lots in South Miami-Dade on April 15, 2019.  According to the report, Commissioner Barbara Jordan’s District 1 had six lots pending development. The developers, Eco Tech Visions Foundation Inc. and 34 Ways Foundation Inc., haven’t made any progress either. The status of those lots also reflect “0 percent complete” and “not sold.”

Since I live in District 3, I reached out to my commissioner, Chairwoman Audrey Edmonson and expressed my concerns about the status of infill housing and the recent county report. She and I had a brief, upbeat conversation about it and I was surprised she shared some of my sentiments. In fact, Edmonson said, “she will be meeting with them [infill housing developers]. I’ve already scheduled the meeting to discuss this.”

I encourage the other commissioners to find out the status of their infill projects. And while doing so, let the developers know you mean business. The proof is in the development. And after having those meetings, be sure to update your constituents on the outcome. And if those “developers” simply cannot fulfill their commitment, let others have a chance at it. On the Grid Community Solutions Inc. and some others will show them how affordable housing is done.

Have you read the recent Miami-Dade County Annual Report on Infill Housing? Wondering why vacant lots have nothing but overgrown trees? Let’s talk about it! Contact Daniella Pierre to affordablehousingmatters@gmail.com.

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