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South Florida: affordable housing challenges in Miami.

While eyes are drawn to Miami's growing skyline of high-rise developments, a housing crisis is festering in its shadows. Residents of Miami-Dade County are facing myriad affordability woes that are affecting every socioeconomic rung of the housing ladder.

Following several years of unbridled housing appreciation and one of the most expansive development booms in the state's recent history, Miami-Dade County is now struggling to absorb the thousands of mid- to high-end new housing units coming to market. At the same time, county residents are seeing more of their monthly income eroded by rising housing costs.

Housing affordability deteriorating

The spike in annual housing expenses is being driven by escalating insurance costs and property taxes throughout South Florida. In addition, the rate of existing home value appreciation has drastically outpaced the growth in median incomes throughout the area. This has been further exacerbated by the exorbitant land values in the hilly developed strip of southeast Florida, which drives up the cost of all new construction.

The City of Miami has one of the country's lowest area median incomes so many of its residents are feeling the squeeze to find affordable housing. However, housing options are becoming harder to find. The area's inventory of rental units has been depleted by condo conversions during the building boom and the high cost of property maintenance that makes new rental development difficult to finance. More individuals and families are sharing homes either to help meet the costs or because affordable housing is not available.


A flow of middle- and upper-income families are leaving the area or the state completely, to find more affordable places to live. This trend contributed to the areas median income being adjusted downward by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in 2006.

HUD takes over local housing agency

Further complicating the situation, the affordable housing programs in the area underwent significant restructuring this summer. Changes came in the wake of a series of articles titled "House of Lies" in the Miami Herald that uncovered alleged mismanagement of the Miami-Dade Housing Agency (MDHA).

In August, HUD announced it was taking possession of MDHA saying the agency had "demonstrated a pattern of financial irresponsibility and mismanagement of its Section 8 rental housing voucher and public housing programs."

Miami-Dade County and HUD reached an agreement in October that would give HUD control over all MDHA's activities, including its public housing and Section 8 programs. Donald Lavoy, a HUD senior advisor in the Office of Public and Indian Housing, was appointed to oversee MDHA's day-to-day operations. "I look forward to this opportunity to help the most vulnerable citizens of Miami-Dade County," said Lavoy.

This article was written by Ana Cruz-Taura, regional community development director in the Atlanta Fed's Miami Branch.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2007 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Cruz-Taura, Ana
Publication:Partners in Community and Economic Development
Date:Dec 22, 2007
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