Miami project may be a model for affordable housing

The following editorial was published in The Daily Sun on May 4, 2022.

OUR POSITION: The need for workforce housing has never been greater and Miami might have a blueprint for other cities/counties to copy.

We’ve been on the workforce housing bandwagon for years. And, despite all the talk, not much is happening.

The Punta Gorda Housing Authority has made some inroads. Sarasota County has some ideas. Charlotte County commissioners have tried giving land away to lure developers to build apartments that nurses, teachers, police and service industry people can afford.

But nothing really big has surfaced.

While lawmakers in Tallahassee continue to eat away at Sadowski funds that are supposed to be directed only to affordable or workforce housing, the challenges of getting something done have been great. Developers just don’t think they can make money without significant concessions on impact fees, the cost of the land, or stipulations most cities and counties want with a promise that rents will remain low for many years to come.

The Miami Herald recently reported on a success story there. Whether that will work here is questionable because it would take a great team effort by local and state partners. But the idea is worth exploring — even to the point of sending local officials to Miami to sit down and see how it all came about.

Miami Herald reporter Rebecca San Juan documented how hundreds of residents have been able to move into condos that were either built from scratch or refurbished for people earning $54,600 or less a year — which is 80% of Miami’s median income. Those numbers here would mean teachers, sheriff’s deputies, public defenders and a host of people working in similar occupations that can find no place to live right now — at least a place they can easily afford.

As we wrote recently, the numbers for renting or buying here make it difficult for anyone who is not a highly paid professional or a deep-pocketed retiree. For the record, we’ll repeat the costs:

  • An average two-bedroom rental in Port Charlotte is $2,237 according to Rent.com. A one-bedroom is $1,812.
  • The average rental for a studio apartment in Sarasota has gone up 26% in the past year and is now $1,450, according to Rent.com.
  • According to statistics provided by Realtors of Punta Gorda-Port Charlotte-North Port-DeSoto, 22 Charlotte County houses sold for $1 million or more in February — a 175% increase from February 2021.
  • The average sale price for single family homes in Charlotte County — $487,258 — was up 44.9% from 2021.
  • The average sale price for townhomes and condos in February was $306,536, up 23.7% from last year.

The Miami project was a partnership between Miami-Dade County and Related Urban. They bought, gutted and remodeled a 1970s condo tower that now has 391 apartments. The $108 million plan used federal, state and local funding to eventually revamp three existing towers and build three more buildings with affordable apartments. Since the plan was launched, Miami-Dade has declared a state of emergency due to the lack of affordable housing.

With a goal of completing the project by 2025, the seven-acre community will have over 870 apartments. That is about double the number of units previously available on the property.

According to the Herald’s story, tenants will play between $300 a month to $1,414 a month — depending on their income — to live in the apartment buildings when they are all completed. Apartments range from 555-square feet to 595-square-feet, two-bedroom units.

Applicants for housing come from all sorts of socioeconomic levels, including retirees, teachers and lawyers according to the Herald.

What sounds bad about that?

It seems reasonable to explore how it all happened. We sure could use more affordable housing.

 

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