What we learned at last night’s talk on unaffordable Miami

Last night, FIU’s Metropolitan Center packed a bar to talk about affordable housing. We don’t think the crowds were there for the one free drink, but because Miami is at a tipping point and people don’t like where it’s headed.

The bad news? The numbers are pretty bad. The good news? The county is considering some major changes that could help a lot.

Here’s what we learned from an all-star panel.


Some scary stats on Miami-Dade

  • 60 percent of households are “cost-burdened,” meaning they spend more than 30 percent of income on rent. 
  • 62 cents on every dollar in the average household is being spent on housing and transport alone
  • 82 percent of Miami-Dade households can’t afford to own a home
  • Even people making up to 150 percent of the area median income are struggling. They make too much money to qualify for low-income affordable housing (the cut-off is 60 percent) but not enough to afford to buy or rent on their own.

Exciting things on the horizon

  •  The county commission will vote on Tuesday, May 17, on whether to take
    $10 million from the general fund and put it into the affordable housing trust fund.giphy (12)
  • It is also voting on whether to require new and renewed CRAs (community redevelopment agencies) to replace all affordable housing they tear down in their work and to make all new housing they build mixed-income housing.
  • Commissioner Barbara Jordan is pushing mandatory inclusionary zoning. That means all new residential buildings with more than 20 units would have to set aside 12 percent of the units for affordable housing. Developers get a bonus if they do better than that — they get to build higher. Beaucoup bucks for developers, beaucoup affordable housing.
  • The commission recently passed a law that 25 percent of all profit from the sale of county-owned property must go to the affordable housing trust fund.
  • It also passed an ordinance that would prioritize land within three miles of a major transit line or one mile from a bus line for new affordable housing developments.

Here’s how you can contact your commissioners if you want to weigh in.

The things we had to Google

giphy (9)We know. This stuff can be confusing. Here’s a cheat sheet to all the terms people use as if everyone already knows.

AMI: Area median income. Miami-Dade’s is $48,100.  

Affordable housing: Housing you spend less than 30 percent of your income on.

Section 8 housing: A federal program that subsidizes the cost of housing

Low income: In Miami-Dade, defined for a four-person household as below an annual income of $56,800. 

Workforce housing: Another name for affordable housing that sounds nicer, according to Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava

Community Land Trust: A nonprofit holds a 99-year land lease, builds housing on it, and sells the units built on that land only to people who qualify for affordable housing. It’s a new concept here in Miami. Peep our story here. People are really pumped about making it happen.

Mixed-income housing: Pretty much what it sounds like — housing that has a mix of incomes living in the same building. Miami’s first mixed-income development is Brickell View, built just west of the Brickell Metrorail station.

Inclusionary zoning: An ordinance that a certain percentage of units in any new construction MUST be affordable housing units. Miami’s only got voluntary inclusionary zoning right now — yep, they’re expecting most developers to voluntarily make less money.

Land banking: Buying land when the price is low to use later and keep costs down

Transit-oriented development: Also known as TOD, it’s about developing affordable housing around transportation hubs so that the cost of getting around isn’t so high for people who are already making less than the area median income (AMI!).

Ariel Zirulnick and Roshan Nebhrajani contributed reporting.