Miami Affordable Housing

The affordable housing master plan for the city of Miami promises to add 32,000 units by 2030.

City officials revealed the long-awaited master plan to the public last week during a workshop at city hall. Seats inside the city’s chamber were filled. Viewers also watched via live stream on Facebook.

Based on the plan, people looking for affordable housing can expect 3,200 units to become available to them throughout each district, for the next 10 years.

Key targets of the master plan address housing affordability needs for seniors, those who make up the workforce, and households earning less than 80 percent of the city’s median income.

During the workshop, Commissioner Manolo Reyes said the affordable housing master plan should focus on the city’s median income and not of Miami-Dade County’s.

“Median income has been my argument since I first got elected. As the City of Miami, we cannot use the County’s median income limits, which is over $55,000 while the city’s is roughly about $35,000. We have to compare apples to apples when addressing affordability,” Reyes said.

Viewers of a livestream of the meeting on Facebook agreed with Reyes.

“Salary does not match the rent roll,” John Tarpley said.

The Area Median Income is calculated according to family size and adjusted yearly based on wages and growth.

“I also have a little problem with tax credit properties. Because they require a percentage of the rent to be increased every year if funding is received from the state. This could be detrimental to low-income seniors within the city,” Reyes said.

The plan does introduce a new model in tax credit properties through the New Market Tax Credits funding.

Though the new model has rarely been used in Florida according to the plan, it offers support to not just housing but businesses too, which is different from traditional low-income tax credit properties.

By improving housing, the local economy is expected to add14,000 new jobs, business opportunities and generate billions in overall investment. It also resurrects previously used housing plans within the city such as: housing cooperatives (housing co-ops) and mixed-use development.

A community benefits agreement with local hiring preferences is a part of the initiative, too.

MODEL FOR THE COUNTRY, TOO

Ned Murray, associate director of Florida International University’s Jorge M. Pérez Metropolitan Center, presented aspects of the plan. Murray believes the affordable housing master plan created for Miami is a model for the entire country and is very doable. The ones that exist are aspirational, Murray said.

“This isn’t just another master plan, it’s an affordable housing master plan. It’s the city of Miami’s plan, which is different from other plans out there because this one is focused on innovation and implementation over a 10-year period,” said Murray.

The solutions presented aim to grow the supply of affordable housing through homeownership.

First-time homebuyer programs will offer zero percent deferred loans for single family homes as well as townhouses and condominiums.

And in an effort to protect neighborhoods within the city from rapid displacement, the city plans to address vacant and underutilized properties through aggressive land banking. Partnerships with third party nonprofit housing organizations will be needed to make this work, the plan says.

During the second half of the presentation, Kevin Greiner, development planner and researcher of Metropolitan Center explained the high points of the plan and reasons why housing affordability matters.

“Housing affordability is as critical as sea level rising. And if the city doesn’t deal with it now it impacts other areas from transportation to healthcare. Making more households able to afford their homes has tremendous economic opportunities. It’s the key pathway to building wealth,” Greiner said.

Properties that are vacant within the city for more than six months will be taxed one percent of the property assessed value. Proceeds from the Empty House Tax will be used to develop affordable housing throughout the city.

In addition to the Empty House Tax, Facebook viewers wants the city to also consider making demands of developers.

“Demand developers to rent 10 percent of their housing to low-income,” Nasly Duarte said.

Aspects of the plan address Duarte’s concerns through the newly proposed affordable housing linkage fee program. This new program, will require property developers to supply a certain amount of housing, at affordable rates.

Micro-sized units though identified as an option for some people are earmarked in the plan as “cautious development.”

“Micro-units serve a small slice of the affordable housing market,” according to the plan.

Opportunity Zones, which were established to incentivize development in distressed areas, are addressed.

Within the city’s boundaries, opportunity zones cover the following areas: Little River, Little Haiti, Liberty City, Allapattah, Grapeland Heights, Coral Gate, Overtown, and small parts of Flagami and Coconut Grove. Investors who invest in housing, infrastructure and commercial development within the targeted areas are given a reduced tax payment as long as the investment is held for 10 years.

And to keep up with meeting both the supply and demands for the city’s housing needs, fast-track zoning and permit reviews for affordable housing projects have been proposed.

A few viewers watching online became upset and questioned why so many seats on the dais remained empty for the unveiling of a plan to tackle a widespread problem such as housing.

“I see many empty seats on the commission,” Isa Ramos, a top fan of the city’s Facebook page.

Miami Commissioners Reyes, Alex Diaz de la Portilla and Ken Russell were present, including Mayor Francis Suarez.

Some residents who reviewed the plan thought it should do more to help the homeless population.

“As I travel throughout different parts of the city, often times by bus and walking on my own two feet the amount of homeless people I see just breaks my heart. Some young and old. The new plan should do more to get people off the streets and into shelters,” Grace Marshall said.

The city maintains homeless shelters are a function of Miami-Dade County. According to the plan, outreach, resources and grants to provide a foundation for the homeless population within the city will be administered through the Emergency Solutions Grants and HUD’s programs.

The city will vote to approve the plan at its next commission meeting on Jan. 23.

More details about the Miami’s new Affordable Housing Master Plan may be found here.

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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