Miami-Dade Economic Advocacy Trust’s Homeownership Assistance Program helps 7,900 families since it started in 1995. Only 40 percent of that number were Black people.
And MDEAT’s hands are tied, the agency’s top staff member said.
The Miami-Dade Economic Advocacy Trust originated in 1983 after the county acknowledged an economic disparity among Blacks and other races. MDEAT is supposed to work at leveling the economic playing field. In 1995, it added the Homeownership Assistance Program, which provides some downpayment money to qualified county residents.
The program can’t choose who applies for assistance because of county laws.
Miami’s housing affordability crisis is worse for Black and Hispanic households, researchers for Florida International University, published in 2019.
Specifically, homeownership rates decreased in almost all areas predominantly populated by Black people.
That’s according to MDEAT’s Annual Report Card and Scorecard for 2018. MDEAT studies
neighborhoods in the county where Black people live. The report calls them Targeted Urban Areas. Black Homeownership has slid in 13 of the 17 Targeted Urban Areas.
Daniella Pierre, chairwoman of the Housing Committee for the Miami-Dade branch of the NAACP, said the organization wants programs that are inclusive of all members of the community but MDEAT has a specific focus.
“MDEAT’s focus has been created for Blacks and that’s something we can’t downplay,” Pierre said. “I believe they should do more targeted efforts to reach Black people. When I say reach I mean where they are, not where they should be. They need to develop new strategies to help the Black community.”
MDEAT’s Executive Director John E. Dixon Jr. said County law mandates the pro-Black organization dole out the Homeownership Assistance program funds to all demographic groups in Miami-Dade County. So the program helps whites, Hispanics, anyone who applies and qualifies.
MDEAT’s budget included $2,198,000 for the Homeownership Assistance program in 2018-2019 and $2,813,000 in 2017-2018. Florida collects money from the documentary surtax and sends it to the Miami-Dade County Finance Department on a monthly basis. The County’s Finance Department sends 8% to MDEAT and 92% to the Public Housing and Community Development.
MDEAT’s Homeownership Assistance Program provides downpayment assistance between $5,000 and $7,250, based on income and family size.
According to 2015 Census data, Miami-Dade’s population was 2,693,117; Black people make up 18 percent.
Programs which provide help with homeownership can be used together, Dixon advised.
“You can walk away with about $20,000 of downpayment assistance,” Dixon said.
MDEAT also has a homebuyer education program, which has an eight-hour class and a certificate is provided at the end. The program includes an individual meeting on what a person needs to do to buy a house.
“We hope people follow that,” Dixon said. “It’s a roadmap to improve your ability to buy a house. We’re always seeking people to take advantage of this. We encourage those in Targeted Urban Areas to take advantage of the downpayment assistance program.”
MDEAT does outreach events multiple times per month throughout the county and in partnership with other agencies.
“We don’t cherry pick people who come to the outreach events,” Dixon said. “We can’t deny people from entering, these are public meetings like the program is public. We put the information out and whoever shows up, shows up.”
“Housing in this county is a challenge for most people,” Dixon said. “Our mission is for the Black community, looking at need of housing for Black community.”
OWNING BUILDS WEALTH
“The most substantial decreases in homeownership occurred in Model City, North Miami West Dixie Highway and Opa-locka,” reads MDEAT’s 2018 Annual Report Card and Scorecard.
Opa-locka Mayor Matthew Pigatt believes the mission of MDEAT is the equitable participation of Black people in the community. But as to whether he agrees or disagrees with MDEAT dispensing money from its Homeownership Assistance Program exclusively to Black people Pigatt said there are laws that have to be upheld.
“There are laws about discrimination as far as race, gender, ethnicity,” Pigatt said. “We have to abide by laws that are set.”
Miami-Dade County Commissioner for District 2 Jean Monestime acknowledged there is room for improvement in MDEAT but said county law is not above state and federal laws.
“We definitely don’t have the wherewithal to override federal and state regulations,” Monestime said. “Some of the money comes from the state or federal government, and by law they cannot do that.”
Pigatt said homeownership is one of the foundations of building wealth in any community and homeownership is the first step to building power in our community.
“We must own the land to be able to build economic and political power,” Pigatt said. “MDEAT’s program gives us an opportunity to create that wealth to where we can gain political power. We need more people to move back into our community. People are moving away; once they get money they leave. We need to live in our communities so we can access the political power and we need to start businesses in our communities so we can hire people in our own communities. It’s about getting the word out and getting more people to move back into these communities.”