Alexis Marion

Alexis Marion lives in a rental apartment at 1317 NW Second Ave., in Miami, that looks abandoned. Exposed wires and a mangled roof are signs.

When I met Alexis Marion, I knew her story wouldn’t be easy to share. Marion is a mother of three small children and employed by Miami VA Healthcare System. She makes $24,543 annually. After taxes, she says that is just enough to pay $495 monthly for rent.

The building in which she lives is a downright dump. For the last three years, Marion and her children have lived in that apartment complex located at 1317 NW Second Ave., in Miami. I wouldn’t want my worst enemy to live there. Due to her income and what it takes to provide for her family, Marion has to make the best of it.

When the roof came crumbling down, she could no longer put up with it.

On April 5, she attended a Fair Housing Pop-Up Walk, an unannounced apartment building inspection. Led by members of the Miami Dade Branch NAACP along with Demetrius Jackson, an Overtown resident and advocate, they walked to survey living conditions, primarily in Florida House Districts 108 and 109.

We saw a lot. But nothing compared to what we saw when we arrived at Marion’s home. The building was unkempt, dirty and seemed ready to fall a part. Fire extinguishers laid on the ground; mosquitoes buzzed everywhere; exposed wires hung menacingly; and part of the roof had fallen down the day before. The Direct TV antennas affixed to the building appeared to be in better shape than the structure to which they were attached. It looked and felt like an abandoned building. Only difference, people pay rent to live there.

This is a “horrible place to live,” said Marion.

Why does she stay?

“I’m able to invest more time and money with my kids; I try to make the best of it,” said Marion.

What a sacrifice! She doesn’t want to live in substandard housing, but she does so out because of “affordability and convenience.”

She appears to be trapped in between being broke, but not broke enough. The working class need places to live that are affordable yet decent. Decent means it should have adequate plumbing; and be free of code violations, lead paint, rats, roaches and mold. That’s not too much to ask.

The city of Miami relies heavily on the county’s enforcement when it comes to housing. It may need to consider stronger protections and enforcement of its own. Miami may want to look to SMASH the Slumlords, led by Adrian Madriz, for ways to improve the quality of its housing stock.

Many families pay rent month after month just to keep a roof over their heads to only end up, like Marion, without a literal roof.

What you pay in rent shouldn’t determine if you get habitable living conditions. Landlords the obligation to provide sanitary housing conditions – regardless of what you pay. In today’s rental market, many landlords take pride in offering sub-standard living to low-income families.

Things got worse for Marion and her three children. After meeting with us, the landlord started the process to evict her. She can’t afford to move anywhere else. Slumlords prevail because of the lack of available affordable housing and ineffective laws.

That extra time Marion would spend with her children, is used to fight against an eviction and a slumlord. With the help of the Legal Services of Greater Miami, this might just be the win she needs for a better living.

Are you living in substandard housing conditions? Is your landlord treating you unfairly? Let’s hear about it! Contact Daniella Pierre to affordablehousingmatters@gmail.com.