MiamiHerald.com
Published: June 3, 2007

HOW THIS REPORT WAS DONE

The Miami Herald spent five months investigating the city of Miami's housing program, a lifeline for thousands of families without a decent place to live.

The newspaper reviewed every affordable-housing project funded by the city's Department of Community Development since 2001, along with dozens of projects dating back to the 1980s and 1990s.

The city's records were incomplete in places, so the newspaper inspected construction correspondence, contracts, corporate records, the minutes of housing-agency meetings, canceled checks, invoices and legal files to track a series of troubled projects.

Using the city's $60 million loan portfolio dated September 2005, along with a list of defaulted loans produced in January (of this year) by the housing agency, the newspaper found that about 27 percent, or $16 million, of the city's money was overdue.

City housing chief Barbara Gomez insisted that the default rate is lower now, with only $10.2 million overdue. That's because the city in recent months gave many of the defaulted borrowers contract extensions or payment plans, which lowered the default rate even though little money has actually been returned to the city.

The extensions came after The Miami Herald and the city auditor started to question the city's loan portfolio.

Gomez also included an additional $13 million in just-awarded loans, which lowered the default rate even more.

Besides the loan portfolio, the newspaper studied mortgages, liens, tax documents and lawsuits. Reporters also visited construction projects and vacant lots from Overtown to Allapattah to Little Havana, and spoke with more than two dozen families living in dilapidated public housing and rental apartments.

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