A city that bills itself as a shining beacon in Dade County is behind on one of the County’s most important problems.
Miami Beach bills itself as a progressive beacon in the County. They have been out front on issues such as LGBTQ+ rights, banning single-use plastics, planning for sea level rise, and promoting walkability and public transit. However, when it comes to creating an affordable city for all, Miami Beach is far behind the rest of the county (which has issues of their own).
In May 2017, the Miami Herald published a well-circulated article, following hotel housekeeper Odelie Paret on her commute from Opa-Locka to Miami Beach via bus, taking between 1-3 hours each way. In a time where live/work/play is a buzzword used by most cities, over 80% of Miami Beach workers do not live in the city. The average rent for a Miami Beach 1 BR apartment is $1,700 per month, exceeding the total pay of many of the cities workers, forcing them to live as far as Southwest Miami-Dade, Miami Gardens, Hialeah, etc.
While Miami Beach is aware of the problem, their track record on this issue has been abysmal. In 2011, the city adopted a plan to build 16,000 affordable units by 2020. Earlier this year, they admitted that this goal was unreachable, and voted to extend the goal to 2030, and build only 6,800 units. There are only 2 buildings in the works as part of this goal, and the city owns a few small buildings totaling in the hundreds of units. It has thought about proposing zoning incentives, or requirements but none of these have been implemented making their 2030 goal seem ever unreachable as well.
A specific stain on this initiative is the Miami Beach Community Development Corporation (MBCDC), a non-profit that operates hundreds of units in Miami Beach. They operate using funding granted to them by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). However, the organization has been plagued by mismanagement of both funds and assets. Over the course of the last decade, they have been fined by HUD, had their grant funding suspended, costed the taxpayers of Miami Beach a $1 million settlement agreement, racked up a deficit of a few hundred thousand dollars, and recently had 2 of their properties reclaimed by the County (who aims to reclaim 12 more). In addition to being poorly managed financially, they have left many of their units in a horrible state for the tenants, and maintenance problems are systematic throughout their portfolio. The county is slowly taking over their units, as many are bought with County loans, but there is no plan for expansion of the portfolio.
It may seem petty to discuss housing affordability on a peninsula that under the immediate existential threat of climate change, but building a sustainable city is about more than just the environment. If businesses are not getting workers at a market wage, if tourism prices continue to rise, if Miami Beach only caters to transients and tourists, the grassroots builders of the city invested in its long-term future will not be there to fund, advocate, and march for the issues that threaten it most. This is a piece of viability for the City of Miami Beach, and its time they add it to their progressive agenda.