16 Oct ACCESSIBLE HOUSING: ONE SOLUTION TO MIAMI’S AFFORDABILITY
There are several different components to housing affordability and many are market specific: cost of land, supply and demand, availability of financing, employment opportunities, wages, education levels of the work force population, land use zoning, government approvals needed to construct or rehabilitate housing, and the list goes on.
There is no silver bullet solution, but there are definitely things that a government agency like Miami-Dade Public Housing and Community Development (PHCD) can do to ensure that these resources are managed:
- leverage as much non-government investment as possible; and
- create sustainability of these resources over time.
We’re entrusted with over $234 million annually in federal and state subsidies for housing and community development, and a portfolio of existing projects and loans valued at over $1 billion. For these resources to be effective, residents must have reasonable access to their benefits. There are thousands that apply without success due to our limited resources. The Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher and Moderate Rehabilitation programs have a collective waiting list of nearly 80,000 residents; public housing’s has over 28,000. For those fortunate enough to have a voucher or public housing unit and who are not seniors or disabled, we will provide policies and incentives to encourage them to take advantage of opportunities for upward mobility, so that others in need of assistance will have a reasonable chance of receiving it.
Miami-Dade’s existing public housing stock of 9,000 units is in desperate need of repair and/or redevelopment with an average age of 39 years, and includes sites such as Liberty Square, which is over 75 years old. However, at the rate of subsidy that PHCD receives from the federal government, even if bolstered by county and state funding when possible, it would take over 40 years to revitalize this inventory. This is not acceptable. We will be aggressive in finding new financing tools and revenue, such as those available through the Federal Home Loan Bank system, Community Development Financial Institution Fund, and New Markets Tax Credit program, and where possible, we’ll incorporate revenue-generating components to our developments.
As we have done with a number of Miami-based private companies, we will encourage them to work with us on unique financing structures, increasing their role in construction and operation of public housing. We will also solicit design alternatives for unit sizes and materials in search of ways to cut costs.
We must develop innovative programs to increase Miami-Dade’s housing stock, homeownership, and address blight. One example is PHCD agreeing to partner with the National Community Stabilization Trust to facilitate implementing a targeted program to reposition and return properties that have been foreclosed on in the aftermath of the housing bubble bursting in 2007. More details on that initiative will be coming in early 2015.
Miami-Dade County will not be able to grow and maintain a high quality of life without a significant component of the housing market being accessible to seniors, disabled and low and middle income households that are part of our workforce. While PHCD does not have the capacity to provide all of the housing or social service needs of this vital part of our community, we can and will serve as a catalyst and leader for a renewed focus on affordability and access to housing, anchored in the precepts of social mobility, resource sustainability and innovation.
Michael Liu is director of the Miami-Dade County Public Housing and Community Development Department