An ambitious new plan to address Miami-Dade’s growing housing affordability crisis is the first of its kind to incorporate the COVID-19 pandemic in its projections and solutions.
The Miami-Dade Affordable Housing Framework, which was unveiled July 2, lays out a detailed plan of action to stave off the ballooning shortage of rentals and homes priced within reach of the 300,000 households — 35% of the county’s total households — that earn $35,000 or less per year.
Prepared by the nonprofit Miami Homes For All advocacy group and funded by JPMorgan Chase & Co., the plan uses data gathered by the University of Florida’s Shimberg Center for Housing Studies and input from community outreach efforts and meetings with more than 700 stakeholders conducted over the last two years.
“Now more than ever, it is critical that we find innovative ways to address the growing affordable housing crisis in South Florida — especially as many communities face new challenges with the COVID-19 crisis,” said Mel Martinez, chairman of the Southeast U.S. and Latin America for JPMorgan Chase. “We are proud to have funded the Miami-Dade Affordable Housing Framework, which offers critical data, insight and recommendations for local leaders so they can better understand how to address this issue, and so they can do so in an inclusive way that expands economic opportunity.”
‘A massive crisis’
Among the COVID-19 related recommendations:
▪ The creation of local eviction and foreclosure diversion programs that would supplement existing state and federal relief to households negatively impacted by the coronavirus shutdown.
▪ Extending the notice period for no-cause evictions (evictions that are not related to non-payment of rent) from 15 to 30 days.
▪ A commitment to halt evictions and foreclosures for the rest of 2020 and use the $250 million in federal CARES Act funds earmarked by Gov. Ron DeSantis for affordable housing to shore up private landlords, so they don’t sell their rental properties because they have become distressed.
“We were going to launch the plan in March and we had to totally rewrite it because we knew the virus would have a huge effect,” said Annie Lord, executive director of Miami Homes For All. “We’ve been predicting there was going to be some massive crisis that would exacerbate the housing situation and make it much more urgent. But instead of a hurricane, it turned out to be this.”
Lord said economically vulnerable workers, especially in the restaurant and hospitality industries, have been hurt the most by the pandemic
“We rewrote the study so we could have viable solutions to prevent mass displacement,” she said. “Just one percent of the 250,000 low-income households that are already cost-burdened is 2,500 people who are on the verge of facing homelessness. We’re all walking on very thin ice and COVID has exposed how fast we have to move.”
Other solutions laid out in the plan include:
▪ Combining federal, state and local resources with philanthropic and financial sectors to preserve and create 210,000 affordable homes by the year 2030, especially in gentrified communities.
▪ Building housing near quality jobs, education, transit, and healthy food, since community conditions and ZIP codes in which people live are major determinants of health and financial outcomes.
▪ A commitment of vacant and underused land for deeply affordable housing.
“The Framework provides some good ideas for consideration by current and future stakeholders,” said Michael Liu, director of the Miami-Dade County Department of Public Housing and Community Development (PHCD). “I like the Framework because it does not dictate that all items need to be adopted in order to effectively address our affordable housing challenge. It provides a platform for rational discussion of options.”
Liu said the Framework could be incorporated into ongoing efforts by the PHCD to increase the supply of affordable housing around the county. According to Jorge Damian de la Paz, senior program manager for the University of Miami’s Office of Civic and Community Engagement, PHCD is on track to build 11,000 affordable units — the same amount the county gained from 2009-2019 — in half the time, with 108 developments expected to be under construction or completed by November 2020.
Lord said that the initial reaction to the Framework has been “really good” so far, but it is critical to keep the momentum going.
“We do have a lot of people who are excited and mobilized to help,” she said. “But it’s important to bring the public and private sectors together to create long-term financing. Once local revenues recover, we need to see the county commission create a significant bond in a year or two. It’s critical to marshal all the resources we have available.”
Further community outreach efforts to discuss the Framework will be announced on the Miami Homes For All Facebook page.