Last week, a new landlord purchased more than a dozen older apartment buildings in South Beach for $59 million, the largest multi-housing sale in the neighborhood’s history. Working-class residents, many who work service and hospitality jobs on the Beach, worry that when the landlord raises their rents, they’ll no longer be able to afford living there.
We posed the following question to readers on social media and the Public Insight Network recently: Can you afford to live where you work? Would you like to work closer to home?
Thanks for all of your responses. Below is a sampling of your comments, some of which were edited for length and clarity. Learn more about the Public Insight Network and comment on previous discussions at MiamiHerald.com/community and select Community Conversations.
This must be a goal of the modern populace. Affordable living near work often means small spaces, but with decent transportation options, it alleviates most of the serious concerns over rush-hour traffic. Living in Brickell or Coral Gables, for example, offers those that work in these fine neighborhoods the freedom of less travel and parking expenses and promotes neighborhood cohesion. On the other hand, finding a way to work near your preferred living community is the other side of the coin. More smart couples are choosing professions that allow them to work largely from home, making it easier to raise the kids, take short trips to the market, eliminate much of the drudgery of chronic rush-hour drama. This makes the choices quite affordable. I prefer to invert the question: Would you like to work closer to home? Yes, indeed.
Robert Burr, Redland (works in Redland)
NO. Due to depressed wages in South Florida based on a service/hospitality/retail industry income, all other wages are also depressed, which means that if we can’t afford to live here, we’re considering moving further north or across the bay in order to survive and keep some money in our pockets. The flip side to this is that if this does happen for these kinds of workers, that means even MORE traffic on the Beach, which is not good for anyone. We can’t handle traffic as it is, so why would we want another 5,000-7,500 more vehicles on the road everyday because people can’t afford to live here?
John Felder, Miami Beach (works in Miami Beach)
Depends on “near.” The nearest housing to where I work is on Brickell Avenue and Key Biscayne, neither of which is exactly “affordable” on a federal government salary. South Miami, where I live, is about 10-11 miles from my workplace. I like to have a yard, which I wouldn’t have if I lived closer in some condo. Getting a single-family home (North Coconut Grove or Key Biscayne) is totally out of my price range. There is no housing of any type on Virginia Key.
Robert Black, South Miami (works on Virginia Key)
No way. There isn’t a place that has nice houses and decent public schools anywhere near. We loved Miami Shores, but moved to Wellington for the schools when our kids hit kindergarten age. YES, [I would like to work closer to home]. Less time on the road and closer to the beach!
Marcus Cade, Wellington (works in Miami)
Afford to live there? Yes. Do I want to? No. I live on Miami Beach, and love it. I feel for the hospitality workers being priced out, but there is another segment of the population also being priced out. Condo owners are also being priced out by big developers targeting older, not so luxurious condos for takeover. Often using less than ethical tactics. It is happening all over Miami Beach.
Armando Alvarez, Miami Beach (works in Coral Gables)
I am leaving Miami Beach in July and moving to Miami unless my work transfers me out of the metropolitan area. My rent has increased $700 in the last five years and nearly doubled (95 percent increase) in the last 10, all the while Miami Beach has decreased in safety and quality of life. I want to live close to work because I do not own a car nor wish to own. I use public transit as much as possible in order to free up money for other things, including housing.
Jason Wood, Miami Beach (works in Miami)
No, I can’t. My husband and I are fortunate enough to own a home in South Miami with a mortgage payment that is well below the going rent prices in South Florida. I lived on Miami Beach for many years as a single mom; as the rent prices went up, I moved further and further north, trying to stay on the Beach with my two daughters. By 2008, it was no longer a possibility. I wish my work was closer to my home, not the other way around. But I love my work, which is more of a vocation, really. It would be nice to live on the Beach again, but not in its current, overcrowded urbanity. I’m happy in South Miami. I am very concerned, however, about my friends and colleagues who live and work on Miami Beach; where will they live?
Jean Blackwell Font, South Miami (works in Miami Beach)
No, I wish I did so I wouldn’t have to commute on Miami’s faulty transportation. Yes, [I wish I worked closer to home]. I don’t like driving and being in traffic. I’d rather walk or take my bicycle.
Mathew Sotelo, Miami (works in Miami)
Nope. I went out of state for university, and I racked up some debt. I know I could stay out of state and get a better a salary and a cheaper AND better quality of life elsewhere. But everyone I spoke to begged me to come back to Miami, to avoid the brain drain that this city experiences. Every single one of my high-achieving friends have not moved back. I did because I want to help this city become the place it can and should be. But Miami doesn’t seem to want to help me at all. I’d love to be able to use public transit or walk or bike to work. I’d love to engage meaningfully in a community — on the ground every day getting to know names and habits and faces.
Erika Grohoski, Miami Springs (works in Miami)